Sacked by the "downturn", an unemployed architect touring the country in a bus...

I used to live in New York City. I designed homes for the tycoons of Wall Street; Park Avenue, Scarsdale, Greenwich. It was great fun. And, after years of saving up for a down payment, I was just about to buy my own little place in Fleetwood, half an hour north of the city, when the economy fell apart. Architects are like canaries in a coal mine when the economy slows, and true to form, there were massive layoffs in firms all over the country. Devastation of the profession. So, I decided to try to find something else to do for a while. I bought a 23' school bus and I'm on the road to see if I can figure out what that might be.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Things are lookig up!

Second Night...  Columbia, NC.

I happened across Sesquincentenial State Park.  Ooooooooh, lovely lake.

Stayed the night for $16.  I met Cliff, the "host."  The parks hire retirees and such to live in the park in their RV's for a month or so at a time, and Cliff, from Michigan, was this campground's host. 

The campground was a very American thing, with the mix of wonder and disdain implied by that term when its used by an east coast urbanite or European.  There are 50 or so "sites"; parking spots paved with hardpack, splayed around a cul-de-sac, and each furnished with a bollard sporting electrical outlets and a water spigot.  There is a central heated building, with clean toilets and hot showers, and there are picnic tables and fire pits.  Metal signage on perforated posts gives rules and notes the handicap accessible site.  The only way you know you are in the woods is by all the trees.

I'm hoping to eventually find a perch on a cliff somewhere with a view of the crashing sea or a canyon, with mountain lions and snakes.  Maybe further out west; Arizona or New Mexico, where I'll be heading after the Gulf Coast and New Orleans.

It was cold through the night.  I was OK in my sleeping bag, but I wore my long underwear and my beret to keep warm.  I woke at about 6:30.  First thing, I set about assembling my Ikea cabinet.  Doesn't everyone camping out bring all their power tools and hand tools and do carpentry before breakfast?  (See "Building in Ikea" in the right hand column and click the pic for a Flickr show.)  The Ikea stuff is so beautifully thought out, it's very easy to assemble; the paint by numbers version of woodworking.  I imagined laughing with my nephew Peter as we might have looked for ways to make the task harder; no instructions, no picture.   How about blindfolded?  Underwater?

As I worked, I only improved on their system in one slight way, adding glue to the doweled joints to help the cabinet withstand the stress of the bus' movements.  I also beefed up the suggested method of securing it to the wall, using extra L brackets and sheet metal screws I had.  I managed to drill a nice hole in my right forefinger with a misguided screw; a pretty deep and messy gash.  My brother gave me a very well stocked Red Cross First Aid kit for x-mass, so I paused to dress the wound and then finished the assembly and installation of the cabinet carcass.  Then, I carefully stacked the drawer components inside for later, trying to anticipate the way they might jostle, and padding critical elements like the glides.  This kind of precaution against damage or flying objects inside the bus is a constant vigil.

Third night... Savannah,GA

I left the campgrounds around noon, and headed to Starbucks for caffeine and internet, and then a few hours drive got me to Savannah.  On the way, eventually driving in the dark for the first substantial distance, my interior lights started to flicker on.  I worried that it was the electrical system screwing up somehow.  Or that the loose wires hanging from the bottom of the dash, which had been pulled off the bus door opening lever thingy (I like that I have one of these), were shorting out and might start a fire.  Or maybe the back door was rattling ajar.  I pulled over and spread all the loose wires apart and re closed the back door, but back on the road, the lights flickered.  I finally concluded its a faulty dashboard headlight pull switch, which also turns on the interior lights with a twist to the left.  I'll see if Ford can get me a new switch.

20 miles from Savanah, I pull over and GPS a Walmart.  There's a 24 hour Supercenter 5.7 miles south.  America; great country.  The parking lot has half a dozen campers.  I pick a spot, go shopping for food, soap, and batteries, and nestle in for the night.  It's a warm night, at last.  I can feel the change of climate, finnaly.  There is warm, moist coastal air breezing through the scrubby vegitation, and in the morning there are flocks of gulls circling.  It's a rainy morning, sacked in with fog, so my plan to explore Savanah today will have to be postponed.  I'll assemble my drawers.


  1. Very cool post. Dig the photos especially; I'm telling you, be a photog.

    Hey I started a new blog:

  2. Ah right, this is Eli.

  3. Eli! Hey, you are appearing in comments before you appear in the posts to come when I get to New Orleans. Time warpia!