After returning to Jacksonville from touring, I connected with a friend from Fairbanks, Alaska who also just so happens to be here. Patrick, travels full time in his Toyota Sunrader (of which he remodeled himself), with his dog Opal. It's kind of a weird story, but he was the person that encouraged me to do PoembyBecca. I dare suggest that if he hadn't beaten me bloody with his practical minded thinking when I was in the initial planning phase, I may have well given up and could, right now, in a parallel universe, be tamping a light roast espresso blend for someone's soy latte, wondering what could have been.
But, that would be giving him a hell of a lot of credit, and I'm far too prideful to be doing that.
Patrick is incredibly resourceful and inspiring. His website, PatrickFisherProject.com contains his blog about traveling, Miles To Go chronicles his adventure of attempting to pay off his student debt while traveling and living in the Sunrader. He's far better than I am about keeping up with it and I've been loyally reading it nearly every day since he left Fairbanks in July. (Clicking on the links will take you to his pages.)
I also have a soft spot for Opal. When Patrick traveled for work, he sometimes asked me to watch Opal for him. Her and my roommate's dog, Pink became best friends and we went on many adventures. Opal has three legs, but you would never notice. She's a feisty, bulldog and great dane mix and has pulled her leash so hard I fell down...on more than one occasion.
Patrick is quite the bold bean. Everytime I talk to him, he's got advice like, "Why don't you just ask them?" or "Are you going to do that thing you said you were?" Questions that make me squirm, but ultimately, push me to be a better person and remind me how grateful I am to have Patrick as a friend.
I decided to take Patrick to the island I grew up on, Fernandina Beach, or Amelia Island. I'd told my grandparents that I would come for lunch and tell them all about tour and asked if Patrick could join me. I've never (ever) brought someone to the island and was excited to see how awkward I was going to be about it.
Before we arrived, we stopped at the grocery store so Patrick could buy food for himself. No, my grandparents aren't jerks, he is a vegan and also obtaining from carbs and sugar during the week at the moment. He decided on a very enticing meal of avocado and vegan sausages. I secretly couldn't wait to see their faces when he pulled those sausages out. On a recent family gathering, my brother had convinced them to taste seaweed for the first time and I was lucky enough to have my camera handy.
Okay, back to the story.
My grandparents are very traditional. They are southern baptists and let's just say, there were manners that needed to be adhered to when visiting as a kid. They still call northerners, "Yankees" and have lived on the island their entire life and know everybody. Patrick, upon first inspection can be a little jolting to them. He is covered in tattoos and is currently sporting a handlebar mustache. At first, my grandma actually called him "What's his face" right to his face and hovered over him as he unpacked his sausages, head tilted back away from it like it might bite her.
After about 30 minutes of conversation, it became clear that Patrick was not a psychopath and they opened up about their lives, and the history of the island. Patrick talked about what he did for a living and where he was from and I sat there, grinning from ear to ear, thinking, "This is incredible". They asked a lot of the same questions to me about being on the road and when and where I am and will be. I know it get's confusing. It seemed a bit cruel to bring Patrick, who illicit those same questions and confused head nods. I'm just glad he was there to defer the always hilarious "Do you have a job?" "I am already doing my job" exchange.
For the past several years, when I visit, they take a portrait. I say portrait because that's exactly what it is. We find a spot to pose. My grandpa sets up the tripod and attempts to relearn how to set the timer on their camera. This process usually lasts for several minutes, interrupted by false starts and disappointment. After trying to give up, he usually figures it out and we take a few of the group. My grandma has a serious back injury and has been struggling to walk. Lately, this process has gotten harder for her and the last time I visited, we had to stop before we got it figured out because she was in too much pain, standing.
As Patrick and I walked out the front door, I had the thought, "I guess they aren't going to.." which was quickly interrupted by my grandma's voice behind me, yelling, "Let's take a picture!" My grandpa decided just to take one of us to make it quick. I couldn't help but giggle at the thought that Patrick would now forever be a part of my family's history and included in the network of pictures that get emailed out to cousins and aunts and nieces all over the country.
As we were getting into the car, my granddad came out, interested in Opal. Opal jumped out of the car and Patrick proceeded to explain her leg situation. She was friendly and excited, as always. Before we could leave, now fascinated by this strange beard, three-legged dog owner Yankee I'd brought over, he snapped one final picture of the two of them. I would love to read how they explained him in those emails.
We left and I took him and Opal to the beach and attempted to teach him how to find shark's teeth (no luck). It's a gift. Opal had never seen the beach, and she proceeded to try and drink the entire ocean, resulting in a lovely case of immediate diarrhea. I took them to the Pipi Longstocking's house, where the movie was filmed. It was such a bizarre feeling of wanting to tell him everything, but realizing it wasn't as interesting to him as it was to me. I actually caught myself pointing out a place of business that "used to be a Pizza Hut." Which, to my credit, was the talk of the town when it shut down. I showed him my favorite area to photograph, which I've previously featured on the blog. Old shrimp boats, seafood shacks, run down boats lead into the port and is dotted with rusted fuel tanks and lined by the graffitied railcars. I pointed out my great-grandpa's old barber shop, the oldest bar in Florida, the marina and for some reason, all the restaurant's I'd worked in growing up (a lot).
My phone was dead, and I wasn't able to take pictures, but I kind of liked it that way.
So, I'll just steal his photos.
I felt like a proud mom, pushing my little girl out onto the stage for her first pageant. It was pathetic.
But, I'm thankful Patrick humored me throughout the day. He was so gracious with my grandparents and so patient with my talkative tour. We talked about life and traveling and what it's like to live the way we do and have family that doesn't understand. It was good to be able to share that with a friend I've known for years and is living the same way.
We returned back to Jacksonville and did some grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, my favorite store on the planet. He said hey to the girls, whom he met when they all came up for my graduation in May.
I just realized this post reads like it should be dedicated to Patrick and I want to take a second to clear up any confusion.
Thanks for being a voice of reason and encouragement for me and politely smiling when my grandma called you "What's his face" and laughed at your food.
Follow him on Instagram: @patrickfisherproject