Sunday, September 25, 2022

Next Stop: Oxford – Nebraska Couple Leads Kerouacian Existence

Carson Vaughan and Mel Dolmen have stopped in Oxford as part of their year long trek across the US Photo by Jeff McVay
Carson Vaughan and Mel Dolmen have stopped in Oxford as part of their year long trek across the US
Photo by Jeff McVay

Hey Jack Kerouac
I think of your mother
And the tears she cried
They would cry for none other
Than her little boy lost in a little world that hated
And that dared to drag him down
Her little boy courageous

-Natalie Merchant/10,000 Maniacs – ‘Hey Jack Kerouac’


he’s a writer • she’s an entrepreneur • they bought a trailer

The above is the header for one of the coolest blogs I’ve read or seen in a long, long time. The blog – titled Local 48 or Bust/Local Color XC – is a travel journal, a new business and a labor of love for a young couple and their curly-crazy goldendoodle (a golden retriever poodle mix) from Nebraska who are making their way across the US as they hit all 48 contiguous states via our state park system and a 120 square foot trailer named Elsie.

Elsie, a 1968 FAN travel trailer, is home to Carson, Mel and Costello for the remainder of their road trip Photo courtesy of LOCAL COLOR XC
Elsie, a 1968 FAN travel trailer, is home to Carson, Mel and Costello for the remainder of their road trip
Photo courtesy of LOCAL COLOR XC

According to the blog’s home page: LOCAL COLOR XC chronicles the adventures of a writer, an entrepreneur and their goldendoodle, Costello, as they renovate a vintage trailer and travel the United States for a year. We’ll file stories from the road, start a business in a THOW (tiny house on wheels), and pick up some local color on the way.

Meet writer Carson Vaughan (CarsonVaughan.com), his fiancée Melissa (Mel) Dohmen and their goldendoodle, Costello, and prepare yourself for jealousy (which, ironically, is the title of a blog written by Mel on October 12, 2015 found here: localcolorxc.com). That post, Hey Jealousy (think Gin Blossoms) will give you a reasonable background of what the couple is trying to achieve during this 1-year trek across the US.

Carson and Costello Photo courtesy of LOCAL COLOR XC
Carson and Costello
Photo courtesy of LOCAL COLOR XC

Here’s the CliffNotes version as I know it: This cool couple that loved their home state of Nebraska but had grown tired of it decided that – since they were still young – they’d hit the road and invite the world to tag along. In their words: The whole state (Nebraska) felt like an old rental: no matter how many times we rearranged the furniture, it just didn’t excite us anymore.

After a year’s worth of renovations on Elsie, a 1968 FAN travel trailer (really?), they hit the road and the rest is proverbial history; one that is still being written by three brave souls living a Kerouacian existence on US highways in the lower 48.

All 3, including Costello, helped in renovations of the THOW (tiny home on wheels) Photo courtesy of LOCAL COLOR XC
All 3, including Costello, helped in renovations of the THOW (tiny home on wheels)
Photo courtesy of LOCAL COLOR XC
Mel and Elsie (the trailer) Photo courtesy of LOCAL COLOR XC
Mel and Elsie (the trailer)
Photo courtesy of LOCAL COLOR XC
Carson Vaughan and his fiance Melissa (Mel) Dohmen  Photo by Jeff McVay
Carson Vaughan and his fiance Melissa (Mel) Dohmen
Photo by Jeff McVay

And now, they’re here and they’re armed with pens (or laptop or whatever).

“We’ve been here (Wall Doxey) for a couple of days now but we haven’t done a great job at exploring Oxford yet,” Carson explained. “Part of the things we’re learning on this trip is how difficult it is to balance travel time versus sitting down and working. It’s a hard balance. We spent our first two days here basically full time at Cups on Jackson trying to get some work done.”

Wall Doxey State Park entrance
Wall Doxey State Park entrance

When asked about their plans in our little “postage stamp” of the world, Carson and Mel explained: “We’re not sure what all we are going to do and explore in Oxford. We have some small stuff – recommendations from friends – planned. We have a friend here, Sarah Wood, who works at the Southern Foodway Alliance so we’re hoping she’ll sort of show us around Oxford. We want to do the Faulkner thing and we heard Lamar Lounge is cool, and City Grocery. And Taylor Grocery; that catfish place. And we heard Water Valley is really neat; that train place.”

“We spent our last week in Memphis and on our way there we stopped at Vaughn Mississippi – which is basically a ghost town now – but that’s apparently where Casey Jones’ accident happened,” Vaughan said.

“Yeah, he (Carson) only wanted to stop there because the town had his last name,” Mel quipped.

“Well … we definitely like those folk tales,” Vaughan added.

Mel and Costello Photo courtesy of LOCAL COLOR XC
Mel and Costello
Photo courtesy of LOCAL COLOR XC

When asked about the frequency in which they sat down with city officials – mayors, aldermen and the like – Carson and Mel said that they have visited with a few but don’t make it a primary focus of their itinerary.

“We’re trying to hit a mixture of people who we interview,” Carson said. “We recently sat down with the mayor of Sedona (Sandy) and that was really cool; but we’re on the fence about talking to too many city officials because it’s not like they are going to say anything bad about their community. But, talking to Sandy was great because she didn’t mind saying anything. She definitely wasn’t serving up simply what we wanted to hear.”

So, what’s next?

“Birmingham and then onto Atlanta,” Mel said. “Then we’ll head down to Florida because we want to go to Apalachicola Forest and then head back up the coast.”

“We sort of have our state route mapped out, but where we go within that state we usually mapped out the week before,” Carson added. “We’re not usually hunkered over a map – it’s usually a laptop screen where we plan these things.”

“Yeah, we like it that way because we give ourselves some flexibility to go wherever we feel like it,” Mel said.

State parks seem to be the overnight shelters of choice for the adventurous threesome.

“The good thing so far has been that everywhere we’ve wanted to go, there seems to be a state park within 45 minutes of whatever it is we wanted to see,” Carson said.

“During this time of season it’s almost a little spooky in the state park (Wall Doxey),” Carson laughed. “We could scream bloody murder and over there no one would hear us. But, that’s the way we like it.”

Photo courtesy of LOCAL COLOR XC
Photo courtesy of LOCAL COLOR XC

The incessantly itinerant couple contributes equally to the ever-evolving journal; one a writer by trade (Carson) the other, an entrepreneur (Mel). However, Mel humbly gives credit to Carson for the success of the blog and the staggering numerical statistics of the followers of their travel journal.

“Mel’s definitely a writer,” Carson said affectionately.

“Well, no not in the same way,” Mel countered. “Carson does a lot more with the content of our blog and I do more of the fluffy stuff. I handle the questions we get about ‘What are you eating?’ – ‘What are you watching? – ‘Are you doing this or that?’ My job is to handle those types of things.”

“Yeah, the only things people read are Mel’s posts,” Carson laughed.

“I usually don’t know what I’m going to write about the area we visited until we’re out of it,” Carson said. “Usually within three of four days but Wall Doxey will definitely play a big part in what I write about this part of our journey.”

“Wall Doxey is amazing. We’ve walked the nature trail for two days in a row and it’s almost completely deserted,” Carson said. “Even though no one is at the park right now we’re still having to leash Costello because he’ll be in that lake every time we pass it.”

Costello is Mel and Carson's Goldendoodle Photo by Jeff McVay
Costello is Mel and Carson’s Goldendoodle
Photo by Jeff McVay

“Yep, he’ll jump in there every chance he gets,” Melissa (Mel) offered.

So, when does the journey end as far as the Oxford and North Mississippi areas are concerned?

“Probably around Thursday we should wrap it up around here and head east,” Mel said.

In the meantime, don’t be surprised or alarmed to see this attractive couple (and Costello) stomping around in our backyard. For the next few days, their job is to wrap their heads around the coolness that is Oxford, Lafayette County and Ole Miss; meet the unique characters on our streets and share them with the world. After that, they continue across this great land to who knows where.

For more information about Carson, Mel and Costello, their blog LocalColorXC.com is jam-packed with bios, road maps, field notes and – yep – an info page complete with restoration photos of Elsie, the 1968 FAN travel trailer.

Arguably however, the most intriguing content are the colorful and eloquent posts about the stops along their journey and the folks they embrace (and vice versa). These can be found under the dashboard button of the Local Color XC blog.

Yep! definitely jealous.

To read an essay that Carson wrote for Travel & Leisure about the renovation of Elsie; click here TravelandLeisure.com

Viscious, huh? Actually Costello was caught mid-yawn here. Nice chops, though. Photo by Jeff McVay
Viscious, huh? Actually Costello was caught mid-yawn here. Nice chops, though.
Photo by Jeff McVay

Jeff McVay is a staff writer and graphic designer for Hottytoddy.com. He can be reached at jeff.mcvay@hottytoddy.com.

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