All posts by dancordray

We're living the life we both dreamed about. Pursuing life on the road full-time. Come travel with us as we explore the many places around America. "Since I gotta live somewhere, I'l choose to live everywhere." ~~Dan~~

A stop at Professor A J R’s Odditorium


Howdy, friends!

During our recent trip to Stevenson, Alabama, we were really looking forward to returning to a place we had visited during our travels through Alabama two years ago.  Brown Folk Art was one of those off-the-beaten-path treasures that we stumbled upon when we got lost while looking for another really amazing place, Walls of Jericho, a 21,000 acre wildlife management area situated on the Tennessee/Alabama state line.  The Walls of Jericho is located where the longest hardwood forested plateau on Earth, the Cumberland, thrusts into Alabama.  Its environment is also influenced by the Paint Rock River Basin, one of the last free-flowing rivers in the Southeastern United States.  This combination creates a spectacularly diverse array of habitats, plants, and animals found nowhere else in this country.  Someday, we plan visit and to enjoy some lengthy exploration of this area.

As we wandered by, we were astonished to see Mr. Brown’s menagerie of handmade yard and folk art spread out across several acres of rolling Alabama farmland.  We immediately turned the van around when we saw the sign letting us know that “there is no other place like this place anywhere near this place, so this must be the place”.  Who can resist that kind of enticement?

We were treated to a tour of the property, which included several small outbuildings full of folk art and cabins that were being built or restored for rental.  You can see the post Dan created about our visit to this fascinating place by following this link:, or by scrolling down through our Instagram feeds, @twentyonefeathers and @dancordray for more photographs of our visit.

When we traveled through the area last year, we saw Mr. Brown’s sign and some of his creations at a shop in downtown Stevenson.  The store was closed, so we made a mental note and planned to visit this year during the annual Southeast Get-Together of nomadic folk at nearby Raccoon Creek Wildlife Management Area.  We made a stop this year, only to find that the shop was again closed.


Dan followed the trail of whimsical sculptures around the corner of the building and was immediately drawn by the sight of Professor A J R Graham’s Odditorium, located within and also on the grounds surrounding a quirky 1920’s era Sears mail order catalog home.  The shop’s owner, Redmond Graham, was more than happy to allow us to explore at will this jam-packed wooden structure, chock full of treasures from days gone by and original artwork, with some items consisting of an off-the-wall and frequently hilarious combination of the two.




We truly enjoyed hearing Redmond’s stories about this unique homestead and another home located directly behind it, as well as the history of the Stevenson area and his decision to create this unusual collection of wondrous items.  He is in the process of opening a small cafe onsite, and has quite a gift for spinning a yarn and creating eye-catching works of art from recycled and reclaimed goods.

We were allowed to sift through piles of raw materials and art supplies in the upstairs portion of the home, and we purchased a few small treasures to remind us of this day and our visit with Redmond in his “Odditorium”.  Have a look at the video below that Dan created to share our visit with you, our followers.  We were invited back anytime, and we plan to come again next year and have a meal in his new cafe!  If you are traveling through Stevenson, don’t miss a chance to visit this fascinating museum/shop/cafe, and tell Redmond we said hello!


Professor AJR Graham’s Odditorium Interview

Happy trails, y’all!

Get out, be safe, and go adventure!


~Brenda (soon to be Cordray) 🙂

New Prospects on the Horizon…

{Any text underlined and in blue is a link to more information.}

As almost a followup to the last blog post, this one is along the same vein.  (Pun intended.)  After running into a real life Gold Miner, Steve Hunt, we decided there might be something to all the stories about the gold in this area.  I mean why else would someone spend hours a day, days out of the month, month after month for years prospecting or working a claim? So, we joined a metal detecting club and purchased a Gold Monster 1000 detector to join in what looks to be fun.  Wait, did I say day after day, month after month, year after year is fun?   Hahahaha.

We have been members of the GPAA, Gold Prospectors Association of America, for some time now because back east it was good to get out in the forest, camp, play in the streams and in general enjoy time together in nature.  But WOW this is different!  Just as I’m excited to learn about desert survival, we’re also looking forward to learning the tricks of the trade when it comes to desert prospecting.

We went exploring today, looking for the claims that belong to the metal detecting club that we joined. We were hoping that it would be a good place to “wet our feet” in this desert. The first thing we learned was that the claims are marked, well sort of….

The “marker” at the edge of the claim may have been these tires that once held the stack of rocks and the claim sign.
We found a claim we were OK to work on in an area where modern-day “claim jumpers” are really frowned upon.  Anyone caught working someone else’s claim is subject to fine,  imprisonment,  and forfeiture of ALL equipment.  If one is caught by the authorities, that is to say we are where the old-west rules may still apply.   😉

We ran into several people working their own  claims within the club boundaries.  This spurred us on to ride a little further.  We learned the “PUSH” had not yet been done, but that did not deter us.  You see, the club was hiring someone with a backhoe to “push” the top layer of dirt over to expose new dirt.  The significance of this is that it will expose new dirt to the metal detectors hunting for GOLD!  The gold will be most likely laying on the bedrock in most places.  In some places the bedrock can be several feet deep in a layer of other small rock and sand.  Still this rock and sand may still contain gold in small nuggets or flakes or even real fine “flour gold”.  And that’s why everyone gets excited about the push.

In this section there’s big rocks, smaller rocks, even smaller rocks, sand, and possibly GOLD.  The gold may be distributed in the layers of rock and sand, with the highest concentration at the bedrock.  We find holes dug several feet deep because the bedrock may stretch from a few inches to 20 feet deep or more.

The people that came here in the “gold rush” left behind piles of dirt removed from mines they were digging in search of that big lode or vein of gold running sometimes deep in the mountains.

Here’s one such opening into the earth.  These can be very dangerous because often times they are merely tunnels with no shoring or bracing inside.  The picture is blurry because I took it from a good distance to avoid being on some one else’s claim.

Having started this blog post several days ago I’ve since been out twice on my own and once with the Temeccula Valley Prospectors Club.  These guys know how to do it right!

This potluck dinner was a fiesta kind of  dinner.

After a visit to the GOLD EYE MINE they had a potluck spread that was outrageous.  Who says you can’t eat good in the desert.

Practicing my panning skills I found this gold in a bag of paydirt.

I also panned some “pay-dirt” from another location and FOUND GOLD!  Now while I could just about bet there was some in that dirt it was still exciting to see the color come up in the pan.  And this is what drives most of the prospectors today, the thrill of the hunt.  Don’t forget if you do find a good nugget the price of gold just might make it worth it.  If you’re curious check out the current price here GOLDPRICE.ORG

That’s it for now.  You see I went out yesterday and I’ve got some paydirt to process.

So as always, “Be Safe, Get Out, and Go Adventure”



Silly Al’s Pizza

Is everything at Silly Al’s silly????

You bet it is!

Even when they’re doing serious stuff like helping the Fire Department raise money for the kids at Christmas.

Tonight was not only Karoke night at Silly Al’s, it was the night of the cakewalk and THE UGLY SWEATER AUCTION!   And trust me I’ve had a few ugly sweaters for Christmas but none of them held a yuletide candle to these.

This sweater won at auction $110 for the kids!

Tonight’s silliness and fun times raised $560 dollars for the Fire Department’s Christmas tree for kids.

Yes they were present to receive this generous gift.

What a great showing from the people there tonight!

I’d like to remind everyone that traditionally Fire Departments around the country step up and reach out to the communities and give back to those who may not have a lot to give the kids for Christmas.   So, I’m certain that any and all donations would be accepted not only here in Quartzsite, but in every community.  This is a chance to donate and know that your donation is truly going to make a difference.  I can say that having spent Christmas seasons as a firefighter this is a special gift for the kids.  AND, the support from the community blesses the firefighters beyond words.

Step up give a little, to make a lot come true.

Get Out, Be Safe, and Go Adventure.

By making someone’s Christmas special.


GOLD! ! !

There’s GOLD in them there hills!!

Ok, maybe it sounds better when a REAL prospector says it.  But nonetheless Brenda and I went prospecting for our own kind of treasure, things we can share with you.

I downloaded a map file for my GPS that showed all the gold mines in Arizona.  Now some of the mines are working “claims”.  In other words someone owns the mine property and has a claim filed with the Bureau of Land Management to extract gold or other valuable ore.  This is important because all of these are private property and the owners do look out for each other.  I’ve learned that there are “claim jumpers” even today.  This was told to me by Steve Hunt, the owner of Gold Eye Mine.  Steve approached us cautiously since we were looking  at what I thought was Kellogg Mine.

I thought this was the Kellog mine I was mistaken.   And just then a fellow rolled up that owned the mine across a small wash from here that was once the Kellogg mine.
Once Steve began to see we were not modern day “claim jumpers” he gave me his card and invited us to take pictures of the the site.  We talked further and he would be willing to give free tours of the site.  Rather than take up his time for just two people, I told him I would put the offer out on social media to come up with a group.  GIVE ME A COMMENT BELOW IF YOU ARE INTERESTED.  I’m thinking this would be something fun to do during the RTR in January.

Here’s a link to a video Steve has up telling the history of his mine.

We a had a great time visiting the cabins that were still standing (for the most part) and just poking around looking at what a mine would have looked like.

I made a video for YouTube you can see here…

Our exploring earlier in the day took us to the Julian Mine.  I told Brenda we had to locate this one because Julian was the name of one of my favorite uncles.

OK, so we didn’t strike a prospector’s kind of “paydirt” but, we did find our own kind.  For us the treasure is being able to share the travels and adventures with all of you.

“Get out, Be safe, and Go adventure”

Small world and interesting timelines…

This is truly proof we live in a small world with all kinds of timelines.
First, let’s go backward in time.
[[[2013]]]    I stopped at an intentional community (Henry Thoreu’s definition) in Tennessee while headed south.  This was an open community that more closely resembled extended family. Anyone was welcome there with only a couple “requests”.
The community garden and animals needed tending and everyone was expected to do some part.  Nobody ‘assigned’ your part, that was for you to find and decide. The name of this place was “Shut Up and Grow It”.   There was some connection to other feed the people groups hence, the grow it part.
###  First link to Shut Up  ###
As you could see from the blog post a great little place with a mission to allow people to live their lives.   Now fast forward a bit to ….
[[[2015]]]    Brenda and I stopped at the same place I had been a year or so ago.
Except this time we were visiting at Christmas time. Our travels were taking us south so why not go west first?
Christmas Eve at “Shut Up and Grow It” was a unique experience. While a number of the the folks there were gone traveling to family.
We were greeted again openly and almost as extended family. Everbody pitched into the evening meal either foodstuffs, cooking expertice, or critique.
And we made friends there that we stay in touch with today.

###  Second link to Shut Up  ###

### Third link to Shut Up ###

So what does all this have to do with Oregon 2017, our vanlife, or even the total ecplise?
It goes back to those timelines. You see we returned to the Oregon coast to escape the heat east of Eugene only to realize that the coast area
in the line with the “area of totality” was going to be crazy. At least that was the opinion of all the media and therefore most of the people.
So we fell for it and headed for the forest and back to North Fork in the Suislaw National Forest. We hoped that all the places were not already full of people driven by the same instincts as ours.

[[[ 2017 ]]]  We were pleased to find not only was there a space, there was that bus again.   Before you go back and look at the above paragraphs searching for a bus reference there isn’t one.   We FIRST saw the bus several days ago when we were staying here while headed south down the coast. That’s when the world as a whole shrank in space and time.   Now Brenda will tell you I will talk to just about anyone, ok everyone. So, after having spoke to the neighbors one of them comes up to me and says she knows me.
While that was no cause for alarm it did surprise me. She said she recognized the picture of Layla and I on the card I gave to one of the travellers in their group.
(I have a suspicion it was Layla she recognized.)217

It had been a little more than three years, she had longer hair back then and was holding a baby about 6mos. old.  It was Jen from the “Shut Up and Grow It” community! IMG_20170817_141922Now the five kids were all much bigger and the 6mo old was a curly-headed delight riding a bike. IMG_20170817_120953.jpg You see, the timelines crossed and then crossed again, this time on the other side of the country.   Since we’ve spent a night or two in casino parking lots what are the odds of running into people like that.
AND, even larger, recognizing someone you ran into on a chance meeting. (OK,ok, I know it was Layla’s eyes.)
It was great fun to run into Chris and Jen again. Their bus had been painted, the kids had grown much bigger, my van was totally different, and I was no longer traveling alone. We were all amazed at how things had lined up to bring our paths back together.
This meeting renewed my faith in our travels and in our guidance through this big old universe. I learned that Patrick had changed the name of the place to “The Garden”.
The name change may have helped with garnering a little more local support.

[[[ 2018 ]]] So I guess this means we now have a 2018 destination to “etch into the Jello” of our plans.
So more than a **Flashback Friday** we moved back forth along a timeline that ties us all together.
My usual tagline is flavored this time with good memories in the past and to be made in the future.

“Get Out, Be Safe, and Go Adventure.”

Fourth of July

The baby hasn’t always been afraid of loud noises, but she is now. So that’s what got me started on the quest. While stopped for one of the myriad reasons one stops while on the road; dogs out, dogs in, get gas, bathroom stop, dogs out, dogs in, get groceries, pick up mail, dogs out, dogs in, I had a solution. Well OK, it was kinda both our solution. But I found the place first on the map, actually had it marked. edited mapFreeCampsites.Net is a real good starting point to look for free or cheap sites. There are pages for every state describing their sites to be found by a simple Google search. Or, even search ”free camping near me” and you be directed back to some of these. Back to the state parks for my small rant. I needed a simple “primitive” site, no water, no electric, no sewage, a simple site, a parking place basically. The cost was going to be $32/night! This was $23 for the site and $9 for a “state park vehicle permit”. So just be aware that stat parks in general have other fees associated with them. That’s the sort of budget item that gnaws at you when you’re really wanting that hot shower stuck in a smaller town with few other options.
Back to our quest to find Libby, and me, some peace and quiet. As you can see just getting in was an adventure…road in 01This site is called Douglas creek in the FreeCampsites listing. road in 02Then it turned into a road/gravel road. While the road was not that bad for the van, though we did shake down a little of our packed items. We did cross one small running stream in the road yet turned around at the next larger and longer one. The site we returned to had hay growing all around which felt like carpet going barefoot. And of course the view was also spectacular. QUIET, we’d found it.

Layla managed to find the creek that was running in a deep cut behind camp. In fact I could barely look over the brush and see far enough down to see water, and Layla. Layla swim
We have a need to get away from cities, crowds, and sometimes people in general to recharge our batteries. This was a place to do just that. Brenda and I edited pictures, wrote, and prepared stuff to be uploaded the next time we are back on the grid. These places also give us time to work on our projects or just lay around with the four-legged members of the clan. Which we did a lot of at this little stop. It was easy to just relax. Let me show you what I mean…

When we leave out of here and find our next destination I’ll post an update and let you know where that is…

Brenda & Dan

So from both of us.


“Get out, Be safe, and Go adventure”

MHA Earth Lodge Village

Today we were passing through North Dakota and spotted a sign that read Earth Lodge Village.   So, I turned. Why?  Because that’s how we roll.  Brenda and I travel some of the roads less traveled, and sometimes they are less traveled for good reason.

This mode of travel allows us to see some things that others might have missed, and this was one such time.

We followed a road around these hills to a replica of what a village of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikra tribes would have built. Name bannersAnd as usual, our timing seemed to be guided as Gary Snow happened to be there preparing to leave.  Gary works with the tourism office of North Dakota and the Three Affiliated Tribes. He was gracious enough to spend a few minutes being put on the spot for an interview.  Earth Lodge Village Part 1.

When we returned on Thursday, I had the chance to spend more time looking at the displays within the main lodge building.   As Gary pointed out, this lodge would have been the largest and was located in the center of the village.  It served as a gathering place for tribal business, activities, and ceremonies.   Within the main lodge are displays of the tools they used to work and garden.

This day there was Mandan squash and beef hanging in the lodge to dry.  There had been a teaching session just days before where young people were learning the old ways of preserving food.  This time spent teaching the young is something I also believe in very much.  The ways of our forefathers and those before us need to be preserved as our cultures mix.

Now I’d like to show you the main lodge, and then Gary will join us to explain some of the displays…  Earth Lodge Village Part 2

Before I close I would like to give you a closer look at some of the items displayed in the lodge.

Here are a few links to the Wikipedia articles about these three tribes.



At this time, we will be moving along on our journey and thinking about the history we have learned. I’ve said before the REAL history is out there and one must go find it.  The history we are almost always taught has a different twist than reality.  The authors interpretation, publishers editing, and the presentation by the instructor all flavor or color the history we learn.  Go see for yourselves the places and things that have been passed down through the generations.  If you are fortunate enough to find a person like Gary, listen and question what you know, and also listen with that part of you that hears the echo of the stories from the past.


I alluded on Facebook that I would write a post about our visit to Fort Totten.  It is claimed to be the best maintained fort west of the Mississippi by some travel guides.  I must apologize that I have not written that yet.  You see, for Brenda and I that was not a pleasant visit.  It’s not that the Fort isn’t a well maintained historic site, it is, and that in itself is part of the problem for me.  I viewed that Fort as a shining success for a new and upcoming nation.  However, it was at the cost of much sorrow and the destruction of several established nations.  I will attempt to write an accounting of our visit to that place at a later date.


“Get out, Be safe, and Go adventure.”




From Atlanta to the Coast…

We’ve been on the road full-time for over two months now. And loving it! Which explains partly why this blog is so far behind in posts. You see we’ve been so busy living the life I’ve been just a little negligent writing about the life. DSC_0980 I’ll try to do better.
We left Kennesaw Mountain and stayed with a cousin overnight who cooked a wonderful meal. And, later stayed at his place in Florida that included it’s own little swamp. DSC_3000


Then headed elsewhere in Florida to catch up with some other van-dwellers roaming around in the warm weather. At Goose Pasture, Layla and Libby had a lot of fun playing and digging.  Yes, that’s our dirty-faced girl.DSC_2928And we caught up with Cuzzin’ Dyck there along with Trisha. DSC_2921The time at Goose Pasture camp was good. It also allowed me to catch a few sound bites for a future project. I’ll drop the hint that it’s another meditation audio track based on this clip from a friend.  Click hear for a taste… Forest flute extended.

We moved from there to a piece of private property and then on to stay nearer the coast. Once again since our plans are always “etched in jello” even that changed. We made a stop at another vandwellers nicely wooded lot and enjoyed seeing Robert again.

Time to “leapity leap” as Brenda says…
I think our next stop was… who am I fooling? I honestly don’t remember.

We cruised the Gulf coast of Florida on the way to Fort Mims, Alabama to meet up with some real characters. 17545582_10212805585914048_4122971939332103596_o These guys are some of the historic actors that present living history at various places and events.
And that’s where I’m going to pick up next time.

SO, as always…

“Get out, Be safe, and Go adventure.”

Striking out on the road.

We began our full-time road adventure by heading south.  While some folks may ask why south?  Those that know us simply reply it is February.  Which means we are going to dodge the cold and snow.

As we were leaving Kentucky we took a small detour and went to Levi Jackson State Park near London Ky.  I wanted to see the McHargue Mill.

I have a fascination with grist or grinding mills.  Both Brenda and I have mills in our family history.  Cordray, GA was a community built around the grist mill my great grandfather owned.  While Brenda’s family, on her mother’s side, came from Switzerland and started flour mills on the east coast. cord_101a We posted pictures of the McHargue’s mill both on Facebook and Instagram.  If you visit Instagram search for @twentyonefeathers and check my albums on Facebook under Dan Cordray.

We thought we would stop and see the Etowah Indian mounds near Cartersville.DSC_2873However the mounds site was not open that day.  Which led to a walkaround and the discovery of a really nice looking courthouse.

Our travels will be taking on a route through Atlanta where we will visit one of my cousins but also Kennesaw Mountain.

So, just as Gen. Sherman may have said, “On to Atlanta…”

Until next time…

“Get Out, Be Safe, and Go Adventure”