Q. Why did you decide to quit your jobs instead of waiting until retirement when it would be easier? A. It's mum's fault. On our wedding anniversary few years ago she gave us a Reader's Digest book called "See the USA the Easy Way," which illustrates loop driving tours for every state. After touring one state (New Mexico) on our standard two-week vacation, we decided we couldn't wait to see the other 49. We had to see the entire USA while we're still healthy enough to enjoy t. We wanted to like hike the mountains, climb the stairs to monuments, hop over streams, and enjoy all the fat-laden, spicy foods America has to offer . . . stuff like that. Waiting until age 65, was too risky . . . who knows what condition we'll be in? Incidentally, mum, who suffers with arthritis, is our strongest cheerleader. "Do it now," she urges. "Because when you get older, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Q. When did you start the first trip and how long did you live on the road? A. We began the first "Discover America" trip on our 5th wedding anniversary, Columbus Day 1997. Originally we planned to do a state a week and be back in 50 weeks. But due to various technology problems, weather surprises and a host of other unplanned, unscheduled events, we remained living on the road for almost four years, coming home in July 2001.
Q. Did you have a house that you sold to pay for this trip? A. We sold everything but the house. We wanted to keep it as a kind of psychological security blanket so that while on the road in some godforsaken place, we could at least feel we had a cozy home somewhere calmly waiting for our return. We ended up renting the house to two young men who took great care of it. We were extremely lucky there.
Q. Did you use all your money, and if so how will you live once your journey is over? What type of jobs did you guys quit and what type will you be going back to? Sorry for being so nosy, but we're just trying to figure out how to pull off something like this as you did.. A. We borrowed the money for the RV and used our savings account (what would have been our retirement Nest Egg) to parcel out the monthly payments. When the savings ran out, we took out a home equity loan. And of course, in true American fashion, we relied heavily on credit cards. Of course, collecting rent from our tenants helped keep us afloat as well.
As far as jobs, Ken was communications manager for an environmental company. He did all their photography and graphic design work. I was a history teacher-turned-advertising copywriter. Since our first trip was a Capital Tour, we missed a lot of the wild scenery, and surprisingly, we missed a lot of the big cities too. (A lot of state capitals are not in the state's biggest city. Take New York, for example. The state capital is in Albany, so we missed New York City completely.)
To make up for this loss, we plan to do two more American trips: The Wild Side of America, featuring natural scenery and wildlife, and America by Train, taking us to America's big cities.
Q. What type of RV do you have? And, would you go with that model again? Thank you for your time, love your website. It's so inspiring. A. First off, we wanted a truck and trailer rather than choosing the single RV units out there, namely the Type A unit (looks like a Greyhound bus) and Type C unit (looks like a Ryder moving truck). We didn't want either of them because with the Type A or Type C, if you have engine trouble, you're entire "Home" is in the shop until the repairs are done. That's too inconvenient for such a lengthy trip. Not only that, but Type A's and C's require towing a car (unless you want to drive your entire "house" to the 7-Eleven store, to the museum or whatever), which means two engines to maintain. Yuch. So we decided to go with an engine-less trailer. And from the category of trailers we chose a 5th wheel because it doesn't "fishtail" on the highways like traditional pull trailers. We named it "Harvey the RV." We Love it! Especially the split-level feel of a 5th wheel. For example, I'm writing this right now in the "loft" above the kitchen. If we had to do it again we would definitely make the same choices.
Q. What was it like living in a new state every week? Did you ever miss a permanent home? A. The first day we entered a state was always exciting. Seeing the highway sign, "WELCOME TO <whatever state>" was always a thrill. But when we were stuck in bad weather, like some of the tornadoes and forced evacuations we encountered, we desperately wished for a permanent home (one with a basement and a strong foundation) and to be close to our families. Sometimes it got tiresome to always be a stranger in a strange place. Remember that "Doors" song in the 1960s, "People are strange when you're a stranger"? Well, it's true.
Q. How did you get to Alaska and Hawaii? A. We parked Harvey and Ruby at a campground and flew to Alaska and Hawaii where we stayed in hotels, and our commitment to RV life escalated. It's so much more convenient to take one's home with them when they travel.
Q. Did you have to make reservations for campsites far ahead? A. We made no reservations. Absolutely none. The trip was way too unpredictable to make any kind of reservations. We really had to be flexible. Like when we were traveling from Idaho to Wyoming . . .we were just a few exits from Wyoming when we found out the state was besieged by snow, wind and ice storms. So we instantly turned south and went to Utah instead.
Q. How about a picture of yourselves so we can see who we're following? A. You'll find a picture of us on our Home page under "Who are We?" I'm the one standing under the sign "Antique Dolls" and Ken is standing in front of his little pink house . . . Kind of a tip o' the hat to John Cougar Mellencamp's "Ain't that America something to see, baby, little pink houses for you and me." That's our theme song.
Q. Do you have any pets with you? A. Just "Ruby," the big red truck," and "Harvey" the RV . . . Oh yes, and an imaginary pet called "Otto." Otto is our scapegoat. Anything that goes wrong is quickly blamed on Otto to avoid any fights or finger-pointing. "Otto did it," keeps our marriage happy.
Q. You should have gone to Mackinac Island when you were in Michigan. It's one of the prettiest parts of the state. And why didn't you go to Detroit? These are great places! A. Our trip was a capital tour. We were trying to adhere to a "50-states-in-50 weeks" schedule. Since it's impossible to see an entire state in one week, we had to focus on one area. Our goal was to see every state capital, the official "Home" of each state. As a former teacher of US Government, I wanted to check out all 50 capitol buildings as well. Therefore, the plan was to park the RV in or near the capital and then take in whatever else from that home base. But we made notes along the way of what we'd like to explore when we do the Wild Side and the Big City tour. Of course Mackinac Island and Detroit fit in beautifully in those plans.
Q. We'd love to meet with you and perhaps take you to dinner when you come to visit our state. Is it possible to meet somewhere on the road? A. We would love to meet with any of our subscribers who has buckled into our "virtual backseat" and suffered through our endless meandering. Unfortunately, though, our haphazard schedule does not allow us that pleasure. Please accept our sincere regrets and know that we are deeply touched by your thoughtfulness and kindness.
Q. Do you plan to visit any classrooms or other groups while on the road? I'm sure students would love to meet you and get a tour of "Harvey the RV". A. As much as we would enjoy meeting all the wonderful students and teachers in our "virtual backseat," our travel and photography schedule does not allow us this luxury. Perhaps someday after all our "postcard traveling" is done, we'll take "Harvey the RV" out for a cross-country a lecture-tour.
Q. Hey! America includes more than the USA. Why didn't you go to Canada and Mexico? A. We agree! Our long-range travel plans include touring Canada and Mexico.
Q. In your USA tour will you cover the US territories, such as Guam, American Samoa, Mariana Island, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico? A. Yes. We hope to see the territories some time after we complete the Wild Side tour, but before we tour Canada and Mexico.
Q. Do you scan the postcards into your computer? Since it is a web address and not a 'real' address, I'm wondering how you get the postmark on them? Is it something you stamp on for the touch of realism? If it is real, how does that work with the US postal service? A. We do not scan off-the-shelf postcards (that would be an infringement on copyrights). Our postcards are created "Live-at-the-SceneTM" so you see the actual site as we see it . . .the same weather conditions, everything we see. For instance, when we visited the spectacular Mt. St. Helens all we saw was fog, so our postcard shows fog. No mountain. Ken shoots several shots of the site with our trusty digital camera, and chooses one that best portrays the scene or area. Then, using his graphic design experience, he creates a dynamic postcard of the day's event.
The cancellation on the stamp at first glance appears to be an official U.S. Post Office indicia, but a closer look reveals these to be hand-created by us. Many times we insert a hidden message to someone special or to commemorate a special event. Look closely, you may see a message to you. By the way, did you notice the stamp? Each postcard has an official "Email postage stamp" featuring unique, hand-designed images of state icons, such as the State Bird, State Flower, State Flag, State Tree and a Famous Person from the State-of-the-Week. The Famous Person is usually a historical figure, preferably a U.S. President. For states that did not "send a man to the White House," the Famous Person features either another politician or significant historical figure, an author, or someone of unique character. You can read a brief biography of the famous person by clicking on "Stamps."
Q. How long does it take to create your postcards? A. We go out all day touring and shooting and arrive back at the RV around dinner time where we grab a bite to eat and get to work. We sort through 30-90 shots taken during the day and pick one that best represents the site, or we make a collage of 2-5 different shots. It takes anywhere from 3-7 hours to create these postcards, so we're usually up till one or two in the morning.
Q. How do you upload the postcard to the Internet? Do you use a cellular phone? And, if so, how's the service? A. For the most part, we're using a digital phone. When that's not serviceable, we beg to borrow a phone line from the RV park owners, or nearby restaurants that may be Internet-friendly, or visitor centers. Sometimes we can hook-up through a pay phone using a portable acoustic coupler. All three methods, though, are erratic and unreliable. We long for the day when technology can keep up with us . . . satellite Internet connection, where are you?
Q. I love the postage stamps covering the state emblems for all 50 states. Where can I buy the ones from my state? A. Sorry . . . all 250 stamps were designed by my husband, Ken, as "Email Postage" to "affix" to our E-cards, and do not exist in any printed form. They are, sorry to say, "cyber stamps."
Q. Can I print out your postcards to use in my classroom? A. Sorry, but we are not in the position to grant permission to print out these postcards because in quite a few instances (where there are people in a scene, or photos of historic sites, for example) we were allowed to take photos only if we promised that the images would be used for "Internet Use Only."
Q. Thanks for enhancing my pitiful life by letting me join your adventure vicariously. By the way, how many others are following you? A. We have about a half of a million followers. Many are people who love to travel but don't have the means to do so right now. Some elderly people and some people from other countries write to tell us this is the only way they'll ever get to see America. So, it's a crowded tour. Soon we'll be setting up a cyber cafe to provide a way for all our followers to talk to each other and share their travel experiences, or vicarious travel experiences, whatever.
Q. I signed on late. Is there any way to get caught up with everyone else? A. Yes. On almost every webpage you'll see a link "Postcard Tour of America," which will take you to a chronological listing of all the states we visited and their postcards.
Q. Why do the postcards appear blurry in both my AOL Email account and on your website? A. Some AOL applications have a default setting of "use compressed images" which causes a distortion on JPEG files (such as the postcards) viewed in the AOL browser, and also on JPEG files downloaded using AOL mail. This setting may have been accidentally turned on, or it may have been the default setting when the application was installed.
The problem is easily fixed by turning off the setting "use compressed images" found under the menu item "web preferences." Simply scroll down to "use compressed images" and uncheck the box.
SUBSCRIBING, BLACKLISTING, CAN-SPAM, AND COPPA QUESTIONS
Q. I subscribed but haven't received any postcards. What's wrong? A. There are several reasons why you may not have received a card.
First, did you receive the "Request for Confirmation" email, and click on its "confirm" link? If so, after "confirming" your subscription, did you immediately receive a "Sample Postcard" welcoming you?
If you failed to receive either the confirmation email or the Welcome Postcard, check the following:
1) Did you type in your email address incorrectly when subscribing?
2) Was your mailbox full so it rejected the mail delivery?
3) Are your mail settings set to refuse html email with graphics?
4) You might have to add "postcardsfrom.com" to your email whitelist.
In any of these cases, the postcards would bounce back to our system administrator as a Mail Delivery Failure which triggers the system to automatically delete your name from the list. Please subscribe again, making sure your address is typed in correctly before hitting the SUBMIT button.
Also, keep in mind that currently we only send postcards from September to June.
Q. How can I change my Email address? I've changed jobs and now have a different Email account. A. The easiest way is to use your preferences link, called "change or cancel your subscription," included on every email we send. Or, click here and follow the prompts.
Q. I've unsubscribed, but still receive your postcards? I've followed the procedure to unsubscribe. What's wrong? A. You may be subscribed under a different Email address. This can happen if:
1. Your "outgoing" address is different from your "incoming" address. For example, your incoming address might be email@example.com, but your outgoing address (the one your company's mail server generates) might be firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Email is being forwarded to your address. Perhaps a former employer, university, service provider, etc. is forwarding mail from one of your old email addresses to your new one, but our database still contains the old address.
Tip: When you first signed up for the postcards, you should have received a sample postcard showing the exact Email address you registered under. (Note: The sample postcard had "SAVE THIS MESSAGE" in the subject line, so maybe you saved it somewhere other than your Inbox.) If you need more help,
and include the following:
1. Your first and last name
2. The date (or estimate) when you registered.
3. The E-Mail address you think you are subscribed under
4. Any other addresses or email aliases that you might have used
Q. Black Listing. What is it and what purpose does it serve? A. A Black List is a common way to comply with CAN-SPAM, an internet anti spam law. In compliance with that law, we offer the opportunity to place your email address on our Black List of email addresses to which we will NEVER send email. However, once on the list, should you change your mind, you will not be able to resubscribe, unless you request us to remove your address from this list manually. A simpler way to get off the list is to use the "change or cancel" link included on every email we send you.
Q. Black List Removal. I am on the Black List. How do I receive postcards again? A. To remove your name from the Black List simply send us an email that meets the following 4 requirements:
1) Send your email to
2) In the message state "Please take me off the Black List. I wish to receive postcards again at _________(fill in your email address here)."
3) The subject of the email MUST BE "Reinstate this email"
4) The email address you send from must match the email address you are requesting to have reinstated.