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Rough Nomad Start

Regret is useless.  So, I push it away when it rears its ugly head.  I keep envisioning a waterfall.  I can't hold out my hand and stop it.  I certainly can't reverse it.  Instead, I push through, I learn, I go forward.


I was nervous going to the DMV.  Though there are thousands of people living as Nomads in this country, and all of those that drive themselves around the country need a Driver's License.  That is what I was telling myself.  Some of them live in tents, right?  So living in a trailer that is registered as a utility trailer shouldn't be a problem.

I called Connie, who has been living in her van until recently.  She is the one who directed me to Green Cover Springs for mail service and to establish my address in Florida.  She reassured me that the folks at the DMV were very knowledgeable.  Thousands of nomads make Green Cove Springs their address.  They know how to do this.  She didn't need an appointment when she did it, pre-covid.  I was comforted by Connie's words, and still nervous.

I had to drive 96 miles back to Green Cove Springs on my second visit because I showed up the first time while camped nearby without an appointment.  

I didn't bring my mask in with me.  

The woman who waited on me was sniffing the whole time and rubbing her nose.  There was a short plastic partition between us, I kept stepping back away from the window.

She asked for the registration on my trailer.  I handed it to her.  She looked at it and stopped.  "Ummm, this isn't an RV," she said.  

"I know, they registered it as a utility trailer because it is so light.  But it has insulation and windows and electric in it," I told her.

She shook her head, "This won't do."

"What do you mean?  I am doing it.  What do people do that live in their tents?  They still need an ID or driver's license."

She went to speak with another clerk that was clearly more knowledgeable than Sniffing Clerk.

The more experienced clerk said that they had to change the registration of Lilac to be an RV.  OK!

"I need to see the vin number," says Miss Sniffy.

"It's there on the registration," I say.

"No, I physically have to go out and see the vin number.  Do you have the trailer here?"  Miss Sniffy asks.

"No, It is 96 miles away!  I had it here the last time I came."  I was really worried now.  Were they going to make me pull camp and bring Lilac over?

The more experienced clerk told Miss Sniffy she didn't need to see and verify the VIN because it was already registered.

I relaxed a bit and stepped away from the window a few feet.

It took about 45 minutes of me pacing back and forth in front of her window.  I finally got my new driver's license.  My DL address is now the license plate on Lilac, Green Cove Springs, FL 32043.  My smile looks a bit tight, don't you think?

I hate shopping!

On my return from the DMV, my van broke down when I pulled into the campground entrance.  So I am at the Suwannee Bicycle Association's annual Pedal and Paddle Event.  My next door neighbors, Mari and Jerry were there and so was fellow Withlacoochee Bicyclists, Judy and Ken.  I met a lot of people with experience pulling trailers.

I reached out by email, text and phone to friends.  I talked with Regis Hampton who has been pulling a trailer with a high-top van for years.  That's what I wanted, he said it was a 250NV Nissan. 

I reached out to Bill Delouche who had a truck and pulls an airstream.  I reached out to Jim Richardson who loves to shop for cars and was willing to help me comparison shop.  It was good to have a team to talk to, but I was still pretty stressed.

I wasn't sleeping well.

I still got to kayak a day with the group.

I lost them and panicked when I went a long time on the river by myself.   The river got swifter.  No one in front, no one behind. I had not paid attention to the instructions for the takeout location.  What if I pass it?  

What happened to all that good Karma I had been enjoying for years?

I ended up pulling off at a spot where there were benches and a firepit.  Something identifiable, I hoped.  I called the guy I rented my kayak from and he contacted the coordinator of the outing.  

That coordinator called me and said they had stopped for lunch in a spring.  How did I miss that?  Anyway he reassured me I hadn't passed the out-take.  Yay!  I waited for them to come down the river.

The next morning they had yoga.  I took Serenity Sam with me.  And it was good.

I really enjoyed the great meals and comradery that the event provided. I had a story to tell and lots of people who could provide advice or sympathy.

 One day I did a wildflower ride by myself.  The wildflowers are the highlight of this event... and the good active people.  Later I went on a very short ride with three other women.

The flowers line the ditches.  Happy yellows, next to groups of pinks.  The bike group asks the farmers and community not to mow the ditches for this event.  

People started to leave after the weekend event.

I wanted to hug Mari and Jerry when they left.  Why did I sell my house next to them?  They are such good neighbors and friends.  There I was, questioning my decision... Regret!  

I gave them a key to hand over to Debra.  I emailed Debra with a request to get the death certificate and the title from my lock box in storage.

And in between the fun, I shopped.

I watched videos on how to figure out the tow capacity of a vehicle and I STILL DON"T KNOW WHAT THE F... they are talking about!   How can I estimate the tow capacity?  I know my empty trailer weighs about 1200 lbs.  But how much my loaded trailer weighs or how much the tongue weighs?  No Clue.  

I was a chicken. I didn't want to show my ignorance on how to weigh these things at a CAT scale.  While watching the videos I learned I could have just gone to the dump!  They weigh vehicles coming and going and are usually happy to weigh your vehicles for you.  Remind me to do that this summer.  But how do you weigh the tongue?

The thing is, it might change, so I need to plan for the change.   I felt whiney.  The little "I don't wanna" girl was raging. 

They have GVWR and GAWR and GCWR and Curb weight and tongue weight.  Two bikes, repair kits, air compressor, battery charger, extra shoes, bags, gas stove, and on and on.  Maybe 300-800 lbs were in my van?  Plus me.  


The prices!  Wow.  They are selling towing vans with 75,000 miles on them for over $40,000!

I wanted a covered van that could tow.  I finally learned which vans have the ability to tow over 6,000 lbs.  So I searched... and searched on line.  Carmax, Truecar, Carvana.  I searched for vehicles close and vehicles far.  In the beginning I rejected possibilities because they didn't have leather seats.  Mari agreed with me I should get a nice one I would be happy with.   Different sites wouldn't give me the info or let me search for vehicles with a tow package (Carmax are you listening?).   As I ran into dead ends I lowered my standards, but then I couldn't remember where I saw a vehicle that would work but it had cloth seats.

Mari told me, when I go to get a car, I am the boss.  "You tell them what you want and what you will pay.  They will come back with a higher price.  Be prepared to walk."

I'd be walking a long way.  I am in a small town and the car dealers are at least 14 miles away.

"Make them bring the car to you to try," she said.  

"Oh Mari, won't you please do this with me," I thought.  

I would call, I would leave messages, I would email the dealers when I saw a vehicle that might work.  Does it have a tow package?  I found one all the way in Cumming, GA.  I called, I hoped.  It turned out not to have the tow package and to be fitted for camping inside.  Nope.  I like my trailer.

I hate shopping.  Did I tell you that?

Finally, I was soooo stressed out I got up one morning (I had rented a car for a couple days and I had to return it) and I decided to go drive a Ford F150.  My advisors were telling me it would be a good tow vehicle for me.  

I went, I drove, I bought, just do it.  

But I forgot to look at the sticker for the GVWR! I checked after I signed the deal.  6500 lbs Gross Vehicle Weight Rating.  

It is a horrible deal, I didn't channel Mari at all!  I didn't even go in with a set price because all the prices were more than I wanted to spend!  I just wanted the whole ordeal to be over.

Regret!  I emailed Margaret Juhl who also hates to spend money.  She virtually hugged me.

So here it is, my new tow vehicle, Big Blue.

I saw in the picture the saleswoman sent me that I am slumping.  All the stress and no weight-lifting has taken a toll.  I am so glad to be done with it!  I have wheels again!

Right away I drove to Jim's Auto repair to get the items out of my van.  I had traded it in on this sale.  Man!  Did the Ford dealer make out on me and my van! 

The back seat of my truck is now stuffed with stuff.  Much of it is boxes I am taking to the kids.

But in order to tow I need a hitch.  I forgot to get the one off the van.  It wouldn't work anyway because the truck is taller.  I learned on the internet how to measure and the words for all the tow thingies.  Measure from the top of the receiver to the ground.  Then measure on Lilac the bottom of the cup to the ground.  Both vehicles should be level.  The difference is the amount of drop (or rise) you need in your... hitch I think it is called.

I needed 10".  I had to go several places and then not wanting to special order, I got an 8".  I thought I will put more weight in the bed of Big Blue if I have to.

Debra sent me a picture of a topper that might accommodate for the height of my bicycle handlebars.

In the meantime, Bill D. suggested I put the bike in Lilac.  I don't want the bike in my bedroom, but for my first tow, that's what I did.  She scratched up the wall a bit even with rags and rugs in places.

My first tow day.  I was so excited to get out and put all this stress behind me.  Let's go!

At 3:30 am I started packing the trailer for travel.  Then the process of hooking up...  My key didn't work on the lock!  What????  I thought I remembered throwing a key away.  Oh no!

But then I saw there are now two keys that look exactly alike on my key chain.  One for the lock for the pin that locks the hitch to the truck.  Another that locks the cup on Lilac.

Whew!  That problem averted!
Then, because I have a longer hitch with the longer reach... the chain wouldn't reach the truck!

I looked on Youtube and found out someone used turnbuckles to extend their chain and get around the bigger slots used on the F150.  Fortunately Lowes opened at 6:00 a.m. in Lake City, about 15 miles away.

First thing in the morning is a good time to shop at Lowes.  Staff aren't as busy and can answer questions and wait on you.  I got chain cut.  But... when I got it back to camp I discovered the turn buckle didn't fit inside the link!.  

Thank goodness the chain fit through the slot and I had enough to loop through and still reach the existing chain.

I discovered that I will need to put a rug over Lilac's post before I open the truck bed.

Then when I hooked up, the weight of the tongue dropped the truck the two inches or more.

So measuring before you are hitched was that good advice?

Finally I get on the road.  Yay!  I am heading to a Corp of Engineers campground just NE of Atlanta.  I decide to not avoid the Interstate.

I am going along, listening to book.  I actually got the phone blue tooth to sync easy enough.  Then ping!

I look in my review mirror.  The trailer is there, there is no weird movement or sound.  Just this annoying message taking up my instrument panel.

I pull off and check the connections.  It all looks good.  I look up on Youtube again.  Yes, someone is a northern state with lots of salt on the roads had the problem.  They cleaned the contacts and it worked to remove the warning.

So I took a toothbrush and brushed the contacts on the truck and the trailer plug.  No success.

I started to call the number off my warrantee card, when I saw in front of me a sign for a FORD dealer!  Cool!
Nope, they can't work on it for three weeks.  They are backed up.


I checked that the lights were working.  Next I will need to go to a big parking lot and check the brakes on the trailer.  If I turn them up high and step on the brake then it will be ok to drive with the dang warning light on my dash until I can get it fixed.  What good is a warrantee when you can't get it in for service???!!!

I stopped at wayside to walk a bit.  There was a semi carrying huge boxes covered in netting.  It was carrying bees!

He was headed to German Town, Wisconsin.  Hey, I am headed there too, I told him.

As I walked away, I thought, "This is why I travel.  These little delights."

I am at Bald Ridge Creek near Cumming, Georgia.  Lots of mocking birds and brown thrashers.  And robins are singing too.  

And children!  Lots of children.

It is around 57 degrees!  I sit here typing with two light jackets on and a pile of wood in the fire pit waiting for me to finish this so it can burn and warm me up.  I like it better than the 90 degrees at Stephen Foster Campground in northern Florida.

So I hope my next day of travel has got more adventures that delight and don't stress.  We all need less stress.

Thanks to friends who called and texted and emailed and offered support and advice and education during this time of transition.  Hopefully I am on my way out the other side.

I am excited about my next stop.  I meet up with a couple of Sisters on the Fly to ride the Virginia Creeper!  It is a popular rail trail in the mountains.  Whoohoo! 


  1. Your trials and successes encourage others who walk this road of life. You are honest and are truly seeking joy.

  2. Sue, I have palpitations just traveling with you vicariously when I read your Blog, you ARE amazing. I consider myself lucky knowing you, & the next time I want to give into a huge anxiety attack, your ups & downs remind me, if Sue can keep on going in bad times, my less serious problems can be dealt with if I just ask myself, whatwould Sue do? Enjoy & Be Safe on your travels.

  3. You are a great role model for not giving up, & meeting each new problem with your "Keep on trying" attitude. Love your Blog, even if it gives me palpitations from time to time. Virtual hugs & wishes for safe travels.

    1. Thank you, MaryAnn. You too are a great role model for kindness and caring. Thanks for traveling virtually with me even if I give you palpitations from time to time.

  4. I think you are having a bit too much adventure too quickly. I certainly hope things calm down, smooth out and go a bit better for you soon. Perhaps there will be someone in your campground who could help you with the warning light problem - and help you get the trailer and truck aligned a bit better. Good luck!

  5. Thinking about you and your adventures.

    1. Thank you.. whoever you are... almost all are showing up as Anonymous

  6. Goodness!!!!!!!!! You are an inspiration!!!!!!! It was wonderful to meet and ride with you. Remember we live in WNC if u come that way or need anything. Stay tough, stay strong and enjoy the ride...🚴. Susanne Hall

    1. Thank you Susanne! And thanks again for distracting me from the stresses of car shopping and giving me a lift to town! I really do want to stop and see the Elk and get your run down on the Elk on my way back South to Florida this fall.

  7. Sue, You are amazing!

    1. I am sure you are too. You show up as Anonymous like so many that are commenting. But if you are following my posts and cheering me on, which you are, then YOU are amazing. Thanks!

  8. Mom you got this! Wow what a struggle. You are an inspiration and a strong woman.
    Do you know if I here is an extension on your the tongue? To prevent rear gate from hitting?
    Do you have to special order the 10” hitch or is the 8” one ok?
    Love you

    1. Thanks, Jeremy. Someone let me know there are jacks that fold down available. So I will research that... and hopefully have one before I dent my new-to-me tail gate!

  9. Excellent prose. Do I smell a "Travels With Lilac" in the future?

    1. That would be nice, if I just would take the time from having fun to sitting and writing and doing what it takes to publish! I have a book about becoming single again in the works under my bed. I don't know that I have touched it in over six months... except to maybe dust off the papers.

  10. Wow! That is a lot of stress! So glad you through th we worst of it!
    Enjoy your wonderful adventures! Sounds soooo nice!
    Peace Krisanne

    1. Thanks for signing, Krisanne. Peace to you too. A few days of fun and comradery with a couple of Sisters On The Fly and I am feeling much less stress on my shoulders.


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