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DAY TWO Destination: Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri The rising sun and boisterous Ohio birds woke us up about 5:30 but we were eager to hit the road, so it wasn’t a problem. (We had already taken down the awning the night before, much to the dismay of the Dancing Baby one campsite over.) We showered at the campground showers and headed out at 6:30. Found a Dunkin Donuts in Springville and had coffee and a bite while Len uploaded a timesheet for work (he’s putting in some part-time hours to ease the transition for the new person). A rosy sunrise over the lake was our parting tableau. By noon, we were hungry and had hummus and veggies (sweet pepper slices and long radishes from our wonderful, local, Root Down Farm), a cheese stick each, and some turkey pepperoni. All of which is incredibly boring to read about, I’m sure, but when you’re stuck in a vehicle all day, the big highlights are: thinking about what to eat, eating, then describing what you’ve eaten. We hit lots of road construction outside of St. Louis which delayed us by about an hour—or forty-eight minutes, depending on which of the dueling GPSs in Command Central you choose to put your faith in. We arrived at a VERY dusty Mark Twain National Forest at 5:15 local time. Had a bit of trouble finding the spot but got personally guided in by a Forrest Gumpish fellow who was super talkative and exacting in his details and directions. It seemed to disappoint him when we chose the “wrong” campsite according to his thoughts of what we needed, but he was cheerful enough about our flawed decision-making processes. He then chose his own site just through the woods and proceeded to erect what must have been a steel-frame, two-story cabin. Over the course of 45 minutes, many, many metal stakes were completely, thoroughly, and cheerfully pounded in. Our actual campsite (#8) was a quiet spot (after Forrest was done), elevated from the gravel road and designed for horse trailers but worked great for our handy-dandy TC Teardrop. We backed in (and up) then cranked the car and trailer into a 90-degree angle which seemed like a good idea…except the fuel rotopax then obstructed the Jeep hatchback, and we had our first minor bloodletting while attempting to maneuver a way to open the Jeep hatch. Lesson learned. Dinner was a fresh salad (I packed lots of pre-washed greens and cut up accessories so the whole thing was pretty painless) with cheese and smoked turkey and that was enough for us both. Sitting all day, it turns...

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We made it to Buck Creek State Park around 4pm. There’s a “Meet the Naturalist” event tomorrow and all of the electric campsites were full (guessing it’s not from that event, but who knows?). We don’t need to have electricity for our setup, but the feeling was sort of along the lines of “Why not stock up while we can?” Plus, the fridge seems to be using a lot more juice than we thought it would. We’ll definitely need to fiddle to get that sorted out for the extended backcountry trips.   We have one neighbor in an adjacent campsite, a family with two young children that are stubbornly and insistently fascinated by our setup and keep wandering over. One is a young boy in a diaper (who looks exactly like the Dancing Baby screensaver), the other is his older sister, maybe three years old. The parents, beleaguered by everything, keep yelling obscenities and threats at their youngchildren. This hurts my heart, but there’s not much to be done in this situation. I do wonder what the lure of camping is if you’re just going to yell at your kids the whole time. Our window fan may come in handy tonight as white noise.   Lessons from Day One: Be prepared for the fact that new gear (even from a quality company like Rhino Rack) may be subject to issues right out of the box. This was our first time actually using the awning extension wall and one of the strap tabs pulled out, having not been fully caught in the fold during the sewing/manufacturing process. That’s not a big deal, but a bit annoying, and genius-me didn’t think to pack a sewing kit. “Doh!” I have the feeling that’s going to be the word-of-the-day for the next few weeks. Note to Self: You remember, don’t you Mare, that the first night sleeping in any new place is always tough? (Backpacking, traveling, Dominica, moving?) In Dominica, it was roosters, feral cats, mosquitoes, and tree frogs. It’s always something, but it gets better. Wait for it. Also: pack more fresh fruits and remember to take your shower shoes to the the shower.   Random Gearhead Facts: The solar road shower is reading 93 degrees after sitting in the sun on the road all day. It’s 78 degrees (air temp) in the trailer at 8pm, with the sun angle pretty low in the sky. The tongue weight was a little uneven, so we moved two gallons of water and a heavy bag of snacks back to the galley to offset things a bit. The refrigerator is taking time to reach some...

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For a week or so, I’ve been trying to figure out how best to leave posts that friends and family can use to “check in” on us during our travels. I like Facebook, but it doesn’t keep things neatly in one place. So I made a page on this website called “Teardrop Travels” that I will use to upload pictures and info, but the page doesn’t ping blog followers when I simply update it. SO. I’m going to write blog posts instead (which will appear as most recent) and I can link to them on FB. Then I will also add the posts to my dedicated website page (Teardrop Travels) so that they appear chronologically, first post to last. I think that will work. If you want to follow us, just type your email address into the “subscribe” box on the right—> and you’ll get an email ping whenever I post something new. I expect to post once a day, barring any special circumstances (like living in the moment or, you know, facing imminent exhaustion/dehydration/heatstroke/hypothermia). Today, our final prep day, we’ve spent packing, organizing, filling the fridge, freezer, and cooler, and making another last-minute trip to the store for incidentals. I should probably clean the house, too, but whatevs. Oh, and I also made sure the hermit crabs would be good for food and water until the crabsitter comes. (Kermit is up from his molt–yay!) Tomorrow is the full moon, so there could possibly be some mating going on while I’m gone. Won’t know until I get back if anyone got their crabby little freak on, but I am still hoping to get another shot at hatching babies this summer/fall. Didn’t sleep particularly well last night–too many pre-trip info-dumps racing through my brain. Yesterday, I finished the meditation pack on “change” and started today on “happiness.” Seems appropriate. Although, I must say, having this trip in the works for more than fifteen months and now being only 15 hours away is causing mixed emotions: “Yay, we’re leaving on an adventure!” “Yikes, so many things could go wrong!” “Yay, we’re going to be free from responsibilities!” “Yikes, we are completely responsibility for water, food, maps, etc.” “Yay, we’ve got the coolest setup!” “Yikes, what are we forgetting?“ You get the idea. Doesn’t make for the most relaxing night’s sleep. But that will perhaps work in our favor as once we hit the road, we will be experiencing much…shall we say…closer accommodations. Best to be completely exhausted like we always were when backpacking. When the sweaty, dirty smells didn’t register through the haze of exhaustion and relief. We shall see.  ...

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All during the month of January, each purchase of Bones of an Inland Sea (Book Club Edition) will receive a free set of eight art cards designed by the author. Each card features an original illustration created specifically for a story in the collection–four images, two designs each, envelopes included. Use the Paypal button below to order.   (Book can also be personalized–specify to whom in “Notes” on the order...

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40% Discount for Book Clubs** Promotion Rules: Download one of the coloring pages from the Extras page (here). Color it–manually, digitally, with paint, pencils, markers, or whatever you prefer. Post the colored image to Instagram and/or Facebook and tag me in the image. Add the hashtag #bookclubs and #maryakers Private message me to complete secure ordering of your copies or use the contact button on this website. Each valid entry will have the chance to Skype or Facetime with the author. Colored and completed images will be shared on social media. **Discount applies for all members of your book club, but books must be ordered as one shipment. US or APO/FPO addresses only,...

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The Goodreads giveaway for the new issue of Bones of an Inland Sea is live! 10 copies available. Sign up to be eligible–Goodreads makes the picks randomly and sends the list to me to ship out. I will sign each one and include an original drawing. Good luck! Goodreads Book Giveaway Bones of an Inland Sea by Mary Akers Giveaway ends November 30, 2016. See the giveaway details at Goodreads. Enter...

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