Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In The Beginning...the LONG Beginning

In the beginning was an interest in traveling.   Back in the olden days when I was just a kid, our family took vacations together.  Our vacations were usually less than 200 miles from home.  We sometimes drove to Sardis Lake in Mississippi.  We also had family gatherings at Chickasaw State Park in southwest Tennessee.  But I think my favorite place was beautiful Reelfoot Lake, a natural lake formed by a series of earthquakes during the winter of 1811 and 1812.
Beautiful Reelfoot Lake
Mom and Pop also took my little brother Steve and me to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park when I was around 12.   In those days our mode of travel was a car and our evenings were spent in the local motel.

The Gloryland Five with Nerd Don on piano - age 12
As a performer I was offered many chances to travel, first regionally then across most southern states.  My first "professional" gig was as pianist for The Gloryland Five, a southern gospel quartet.  By age 14 I had my own instrumental trio.  I also became accompanist for the Miss Tennessee Pageant and other pageants around the mid-south.  A musical genius named Joe Kincaid was my musical mentor. Joe pushed me into many other musical opportunities with dozens of performances and industrial shows as well as regular hotel and country club gigs.

In my early 20s, I became the pianist for Impact Records gospel artists, Doug Oldham and Jack Price and worked in music evangelism.  These opportunities gave me the chance to travel from Halifax N.S.  to San Diego, California and many places in between. 

During these years, my traveling/sleeping modes varied from cars and hotels to a customized Silver Eagle Coach, a Twilight Bungalow fifth-wheel, vans and hotels. motorhomes and travel trailers. 

At one point in my mid-20s, I bought myself an Aljo 23' travel trailer.  But I hardly used it and sold it a few years later.   Fortunately, I still have one photo of it

In 1982, I moved to Texas and became the featured pianist at the beautiful Fairmont Hotel in Dallas from 1983 to 1993.  At first there was not much traveling except for regular auto trips to my home town in the beautiful state of Tennessee.  For a few years I lived in several apartments and even owned a home in the suburbs for three years.   But the truth is I am not a house person.  To me, taking care of a yard is an unnatural act.  Eventually, my perfect little pooch, Shadow, and I moved back into an apartment.  Having a yard and doggie door was great for Shadow.  But apartment living was more my style than yard work.  I clearly do not have a green thumb.  During these years every time I would leave the DFW area I longed to be "on the road" again.  I love America and enjoy seeing the country on a more relaxed schedule.

Although I was based in Dallas, in the late '80s I had opportunities to work with with Kawai America, teaching my three-day organ seminar and giving concerts mostly in Florida and California.  I also had the chance for more travel when I became musical director and conductor for RCA Recording artist John Gary.  I performed with and conducted symphonies, orchestras and big-bands all over the country, sharing the stage with Andy Williams, Flip Wilson, Johnny Nash, Pat Boone and many others.

That's when the RV bug hit me again.   John Gary planned to open a theatre in Branson, Missouri and asked me to be the musical director.  What a great chance to perform many months, then take time off to see the country.  Of course to me that meant seeing the country in an RV.  Unfortunately, John had some health issues and passed away.  Death stole a great voice from the American music world.

1986 Argosy 32'
Still I knew I wanted to travel.  You can read some more about this at the first Airstream History page on the internet.  I had always been an Airstream fan.  After much research, in 1997 I bought a 1986 32' Argosy, a "squarestream" trailer that Airstream produced for six years.   The Argosy is a more "square" Airstream with slightly less rounded corners.  The Argosy also tows great, like the classic Airstream.  My plans were to travel with the Argosy while teaching my piano seminar and occasionally performing.  But while I was making these plans the economy changed, I had a couple of contracts broken and I never left town.  I ended up "fulltiming" in one location, living in my beautiful 1986 32' Argosy for over ten years, all the while planning NOT to live in it full-time.

Life is what happens when you are making other plans.

In April 2009 I bought a 36' Nuwa Hitchhiker fifth wheel with three slide-outs.  As much as I loved the Argosy, this thing is like a home compared to the Argosy.  So now, I have the Argosy and the Hitchhiker.
Living Room In the HitchHiker - Party Time!
The Airstream mystique is an unusual affair.  It draws you in like a magnet and holds you, eventually consuming your thoughts, your emotions, your very life.  But how long can you nurse an obsession?   I finally decided I might have had my time with that.  But it took one final, very different device to push me into seriously considering giving up the idea of Airstream ownership.

Enter the Casita Freedom Deluxe...a beautiful, lightweight, molded fibreglass travel trailer! 
A Row of Don Pods - The Casita
As I type this I am still making plans and given my artistic/creative personality, my plans are subject to change.   Today the plans will include eventually selling the Argosy, buying the Casita, using the Hitchhiker as a home base and embracing the Casita as the Don Pod for traveling around the country.   Eventually the Hitchhiker will be replaced by a more permanent home of some sort, probably in Florida.  But again this is all subject to change.
The Don Pod Rear View
Eventually the Casita will assume The Don Pod title from the Argosy.  Who knows what lies ahead.   But am making plans while life happens around me.  Without a vision, one perishes.  I have had the vision for several decades and worked it out in various ways over time.   Life isn't over I'm still making plans and living my plans every chance I get.   You should be, too.

1 comment:

  1. Well Don you hit several high notes with me in this blog. First of course is that I too have this dream of life in a Fiberglass home. Just haven't decided if it's a Scamp or a Casita yet. Second I am extremely fond of Southern Gospel music and third Doug Oldham was my mentor (unbeknown to him) as I developed my style of singing. His passing last year was a sad occasion to me as he passed within a day of when my wife passed.

    So I am going to follow you here because I like your style, I like your writing and I like you passion. Keep it coming and good luck.