Joined April 2022 Message
  • Day33

    Home Sweet Home

    October 3 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 79 °F

    Driving back home today through Florida was inspirational. My journey has shown me that there are many good-hearted people throughout our country. From the Park Ranger who was willing to give me a place to stay and cash to get home when I misplaced my wallet, to the stranger in front of me in the Starbucks line who paid for my coffee, to the travelers I met randomly on the trails who united with me in our pilgrimage and shared her-stories, if only briefly.

    Today, Driving I-10 through the panhandle, I saw myriads of vehicles, from all the southern states all the way to Texas and Tennessee, loaded down with supplies for Florida hurricane relief. Some were commercial or government contracted, but many were small businesses and even individuals who had a tractor and trailer and thought, "I'm going to load this up with cases of bottled water and take it to Florida." On I-75 southbound, I saw convoys of electric utility trucks from other states, tree trimming trucks with large lifts, trucks loaded with generators, large Cat generators, a church from Tennessee loaded with supplies, restoration service companies, trucks with large construction and rescue cranes, emergency fuel service tankers, and trailers loaded with Handi Houses temporary housing. It was touching to see the outpouring of generosity to help others in need.

    I could see some evidence of damage as I drove into Tampa. Most of it has been cleaned up. There are piles of tree debri in front of every home, for sure. The giant cross at the church on I-75 in Tampa broke in half. 

    Doug took his generator to the birth center this morning so they could get through clinic; then finally in the early afternoon, the power returned.

    My bathroom is still not done. "By the end of the week," my contractor says. My car is at Doug's, so I will stay there a few days, unload and clean up the van, get her over to the dealer, and check on the birth center. After 4 days of straight driving, over 2,000 miles and 30 hours, I'm very happy to be "home".  My hometown area and a bathtub is very nice. Not sure if I mentioned it, but my shower was broken for the 5 weeks prior to leaving on my trip, so I've been "camping" for a long time. Returning to normal civilization feels strange. "Oh, I can throw that toilet paper in the toilet instead of the garbage can." I wonder how long it will take for that instinct to go away. The little conveniences that I often take for granted become more appreciated after camping for 33 days.

    Here is a synopsis of my journey:

    33 days

    10 showers, lol. No, I don't really know the exact number, but yeh you catch the drift.... haha

    7,306 miles

    $2105.04 spent on fuel

    17 states visited (FL, GA, NC, TN, KY, IL, MO, KS, CO, UT, AZ, NV, NM, TX, LA, MS, AL)

    8 National Parks visited (Great Smokey, Gateway Arch, Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes)

    One chip in the windshield. The van is going for multiple inside repairs on the 6th.

    17 magnets on the van

    Thankfully, 0 accidents. 0 injuries. 0 tickets

    From 13 ft to 14,115 ft elevation and back again

    I've learned many things, including: The best things are not planned, but are stumbled upon. Taking that detour will produce delightful surprises. Nevada is pronounced Neh-vaa-duh. Country music is awesome. Living in the moment and holding its beauty is true joy. A van is not meant for two persons for more than a week. Yes, I do think camping in a van would be a great dating reality TV show. Being sick at high altitude sucks.

    I'm looking forward to many more journeys, perhaps even hitting the road full-time next year. Until the next journey, adios.
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  • Day32

    The Road Home

    October 2 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 72 °F

    I drove another 600 miles today.

    Each state has it's unique beauty. Because states are often separated by rivers, the terrain is often somewhat different. There were the cotton fields of Louisiana in full bloom. It felt good to cross the Mississippi River, and know that the radio stations have switched from K's to W's. Yes, when I don't have phone signal, I listen to the radio. The forests and pine trees of Mississippi go on forever. I was driving mostly back roads today making my way from I-20 to I-10. Every mile marked remnants of deer road kill. I was glad it was daytime. It reminded me of my late night drive into Oxford, Mississippi one January, driving my daughter toward Ole Miss for graduate school... in the Tesla. We were both perched forward like hawks looking for deer. That was a fun 18 hour trip, stopping to charge the Tesla every 3 to 4 hours. Driving alone brings back so many memories... memories of my parents, past vacations, talking on the CB using our handles, living in Scroggins, Texas. I had lobster for the first time in Longview, Texas. I was 14. There's a lot of time to think.

    Alabama felt more like home with plentiful oak trees. My mother was born in Mobile on blackout night in December, 1942, during World War II. Speaking of giving birth in the dark, I found out tonight that the birth center still doesn't have power since the hurricane. There's an electrical pole down, split into three pieces. There have been no babies, thankfully. One of our patients evacuated to Tallahassee and the Birth Center of Tallahassee saw her. Thank you, Layla!

    The cheapest fuel I've found was $2.65 a gallon... in Louisiana.

    I also saw a couple of hang gliders today in transit. They are stored in a large metal case that looks like the tail of an airplane or an upside down boat. I didn't know what it was at first but this morning in line at Starbucks, there was one in front of me with a hang glider sticker on the back. The man with the hang glider paid for my coffee, so I paid it forward to the person behind me. I told nobody about this.

    Mexican food sounded so good, so Doug (over the phone) kindly found El Paso Mexican Grill in Milton, Florida, not too far from my campground in Holt. I headed that way and enjoyed a skinny margarita and chicken flautas. I realized today how isolated I've been. Its been days since I've had human interaction besides on the phone. Not that i was chatting it up with anyone, but the waitress was very sweet. I was sitting at the bar watching news for the first time in over a month. On one of the four TVs above, the Packers and Patriots were playing. I was texting Doug while eating and reading the news on the screen.  Close to the end of my meal, the waitress returned, "So I just wanted to let you know, your tab has been paid for by the man on the phone." Dougie, you are adorable.

    I'm looking forward to being home tomorrow. Payroll is done (for the 3rd time this trip) and emails reviewed. I'm ready to reenter society. My bathroom is not completed, however. Oh, and mercury is no longer in retrograde.
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  • Day31

    Texas

    October 1 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 81 °F

    I was 24 hours from home this morning. I drove over 600 miles today!! From Clayton, New Mexico to Lindale, Texas. The closer I got to Texas the cheaper the gas.

    I slept in the parking lot at Loves in Clayton last night I slept at the parking lot and woke up to 50 degrees. I guess with the altitude driving and the cooler air lowered my tire pressure. The tire pressure dummy light was on. I learned something today about tires for the van. I started out at the regular air pump which cost $1, but it only goes up to 70 PSI. My rear tires need 80 pounds of pressure. I went in to inquire if the truckers have a separate air filling station. They do and it's free! There's a large pull down air compressor by the diesel pumps; it just doesn't tell you what the pressure is. The guy at the front desk had a digital air pressure gauge and he assisted me. My tires were about 10 pounds of pressure low each. I was really glad to learn this, and I'm adding the digital gauge to my shopping list.

    I drove through the Ports to Plains Corridor. This is the highway that goes from Mexico at the port to Denver. The plains are at a relatively high altitude, yet flat, and the winds are strong and gusty blowing my vehicle around. A railroad track runs along side of the corridor.

    Everyone knows Texas is huge. I drove through four major Texan cities today. It took about two hours to get through Fort Worth and Dallas. The traffic in Dallas was horrendous! And it's a weekend. The roads are going every which way, over and under, and Google Maps couldn't even keep up with where I was. "GPS signal lost", I heard about five times in the middle of Dallas. The routing was just as unclear and not keeping up in real time. The interstates are confusing. There's a I-35 South and an I-35 North and an I-35E South and an I-35E North and an I-30. It was stop and go traffic for miles. I wasn't the only person confused.

    The TMJ has really flared today. I guess the stress of the last couple of days has taken its toll and Dallas didn't help. Driving posture is a factor as well. I warmed my rice sock for my neck and shoulders and placed an empty sunflower seed jar behind my back for pressure points. I stretched, and I danced to Justin Timberlake while driving through the plains. The rice sock helped immensely! Between the rice sock and Justin Timberlake My pain was forgotten... until Dallas.

    Just east of Dallas on I-20, I stopped at Buc-ee's. Gas was $2.95 there. I went in and bought some water, Advil for my jaw and neck, and a chopped brisket sandwich. Buc-ee's is an experience, but beware it's a madhouse. If you can, go in the middle of the night. I was once there at 3 am and had the whole store to myself. Today, the Buc-ee's mascot in costume was taking pictures with children There were samples of Buc-ee's nuggets. Outside were palettes of deer cornnuts. I got out of there as fast as I could.

    I drive another hour and a half to Lindale outside of Tyler and set up to sleep in the Walmart parking lot. I would have gotten a campsite tonight, but it was too late by the time I got out of Dallas. Everything was closed. My battery is close to dead once again. It is supposed to charge when I'm driving, but doesn't seem to be doing that. I'm hardly running anything at all, and if I do it is while the van engine is running. I expect the frig will go out during the night.
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  • Day30

    Great Sand Dunes National Park

    September 30 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 68 °F

    I arrived to Great Sand Dunes early afternoon. I went to the visitor center first and stamped my passport. The main visitor center is closed this year for renovations, so they have a temporary modular center set up.

    Driving up a bit further to the next parking lot, I readied myself for hiking the dunes. Camelback donned, I headed on foot toward the dunes. It was ust about 70 degrees and sunny at the base with a nice breeze. There's a small river of water at the base of the sand. The kids were playing in the clean brown sand and a familiy had set up a beach tent in the steam like it was the beach. I treaded through the river to the dunes.

    Hiking through sand is hard work! I'm used to waking the beach, but I usually walk the packed part of the sand and it's NOT uphill. They say it can be up to 60 degrees hotter on the sand. I was working up a sweat, but I wouldn't say it was hot. The higher the elevation, the temperature was dropping and the wind was getting stronger. I was walking along this narrow ridge. There were sand boarders riding down the ridges, walking back up and then riding down again. There was a young couple from Denver who asked me to take their picture. There was a couple carrying their Collie down the rim. Another couple had their baby on back and walked right past me. I was out of breath. It was not only hard work but at a high elevation and I was out of breath.

    I made it about one-third of the way up. The wind was whipping up the sand and my legs were being sandblasted. That was my turn around point. It is over 6 miles round trip to the top. I hiked 2 miles and enjoyed every minute. If I hadn't been alone I would have pushed to go the top but I couldn't afford to put myself in a position where I could compromise my ability to get home. I'm ready to go home.

    ...
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    Traveler

    did you walk to top and slide down? Took kids here when they were younger and they spent hours sliding.

    10/1/22Reply
     
  • Day30

    Lower Colorado

    September 30 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 48 °F

    This morning I drove from Cortez, Colorado 160 east through Durango and Pagoda Springs. The drive was beautiful. My favorite was just east of Pagoda Springs and then heading up into the mountains in Mineral County and the Rio Grande National Forest.

    I saw my first autumn leaves today. I was really hoping I'd get to see the Aspens turning yellow, and I did. It did not disappoint. Across the mountains the Aspens glow golden. When the wind rustles the leaves, they quiver and shake, picking up the reflection of the sun and producing a flashing glimmer.

    I haven't had wifi since the 23rd when I left the Waldorf Astoria. Cell signal has been weak and hit or miss as well. Twice I've been at campgrounds that had wifi supposedly but it didn't work. I've had no news or connection with the outside world except the friends and family I've spoken to. Today, I'm hearing about the mass devastation of Fort Meyers area and Sanibel Island. It's just so heartbreaking to think about. My family has had power outages and some property damage... siding, roofing, pool enclosures, soffits... nothing major. My condo building on the beach has no damage and only lost power for two hours. We were spared.
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  • Day29

    Mesa Verde National Park

    September 29 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 72 °F

    Last night was a rough night with little sleep. The battery on the camper went dead which meant the refrigerator and freezer wasn't on. I'm not really sure why this happened because i haven't used much of anything except a few lights. I was awake at 3 am in the Walmart parking lot and drove around looking for a place to plug in. I finally found a place to plug in for a minute to restart the inverter, then went back to the Walmart parking lot only to be awakened by the high school matching band practicing in the parking lot at 7:30 am. By that time I discovered that the battery was dead again even though I had kept the van running for 2 hours. I found a local RV campground and made a reservation for tonight. They allowed me to go in early this morning to charge. While the van charged, I slept another couple of hours.

    This afternoon I finally got back to Mesa Verde National Park. There is about an hour drive in to the cliff dwellings. At the vista points, I could see for miles and miles, from the Navajo lands, Four Corners, the fertile inhabited valley, the Mesa and the Rocky Mountains in the distance.

    I stopped at the gift shop near Far View and bought a sticker. There are markers asking the road remembering fires of the past. Most were healed but the fire from 2002 still has charted trees standing. At the top of one of the Mesa points is a fire lookout office where
    Difference between national park and monument
    Museum closed remodeling
    Spruce tree house 3rd largest, most preserve d 1200s
    Xliff palace. 700 years moved south
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  • Day28

    Four Corners

    September 28 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 73 °F

    Four Corners is where four states meet... Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico all come together on a T. It's on tribal land, and they charge $8 per person to enter.

    This wasn't a planned stop, but it was on my route and I couldn't miss the opportunity. Four Corners is located in the middle of nowhere. The roads and property leading up to the actual center are run down. The bathrooms are closed and roped off with a sign that says, "No water." Along all four sides of the venue are booths with vendors selling Native American jewelry, t-shirts and other Native American artifacts and memorabilia. I bought a Four Corners magnet for Lil' Miss, took some pictures and headed out to Mesa Verde National Park.

    There was 10 miles of construction just east of Four Corners with rough gravel roads and potholes. I made it through and to Mesa Verde just a little over an hour east.

    At Mesa Verde, I stopped at the visitor center first and walked around outside, inside the museum exhibits and the gift shop. I stamped my passport and went to buy a stamp when I realized that I didn't have my wallet with me.

    I returned to the van and searched everything four times, trying to stay calm and focused.. I looking in every nook and cranny and even under the seats. It wasn't there. I tried calling Four Corners but just received a voice-mail message. Doug was helping me too by calling around and helping me stay calm. I went back inside the visitor center to see if it was there, retracing my steps and asking multiple park rangers. It was not in the lost and found. I left my name and number in case they found it, and returned to the van to look again. I checked my bank accounts and credit card accounts and nothing was unexpected.

    Four Corners was just over an hour away, even longer with construction delays, but I had to go back. I returned to Four Corners, receipt in hand, to retrace my steps. I talked to the lady at the entrance and the people at the administration office. I spoke to the vendor who sold me the magnet, checked the parking lot where I was parked, and drove real slow checking the sides of the road. Nada. At the construction stop, I asked the DOT employees, the girl holding the stop sign, and she radio'd to her team. I even called the tribal police department.

    I called the 800 number at Chase Bank to see about freezing my cards, followed all the prompts and waited for a representative. Finally, they said, "Sorry, we can't help you. Call back another time."

    My mind is obviously somewhere else today. I'm thinking about home and the hurricane making landfall this afternoon... my daughter and her family, Doug, my brother and sister, friends, and the birth center and staff. I'm thinking about them and praying for their safety.

    I proceeded to return to Cortez, Colorado the town nearby Mesa Verde, thinking about what I would do next. Certainly I will take pictures of all my cards in the future and place one card somewhere safe in another location. I did have $500 cash, and that could surely get me to a Chase Bank to get more cash to get home.

    Driving back into Cortez for the second time, I see that the Fiesta Twin Cinema is playing "Don't Worry Darling". That message is for me. I needed to stop at Walmart to get a new septic hose, as the one that came with with the van fell out of the compartment. The sewer hose compartment on this van is a flawed design that never would lock correctly. Doug and I had discussed this and knew it was just a matter of time before the slinky went slinking down the road behind Little Miss. Well today was that day.

    I pulled over in the Walmart parking lot and took a minute to see if I could stay there overnight. Yes, RV parking is allowed here. Very good. I reached down for Betty Boo (my pistol) and some cash to go into Walmart... and what did I see laying right there between the underneath of the passenger seat and the middle console that I created to store things? My wallet!

    Man, I was so relieved. I can not tell you how much. But still shaken from the stress of the day. I went in and bought my favorite Walmart bakery item, Peanut Butter Fudge No Bake Cookies, because I needed to stress eat. I got fuel in the van, cleaned the windshield, parked the van and set up for the night, and cooked dinner.

    Tonight I will be taking pictures of all the cards in my wallet and putting them in my phone and Google drive.

    I'd like to think there was some greater purpose for all the hoopla of the day, that I am exactly where I need to be. And now I can say that I literally went to the Four Corners of the earth looking for something.... and I found it. It was right here all the time.
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  • Day28

    Ghost Town, USA

    September 28 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 55 °F

    I slept at a Conoco near Flagstaff on 89 North last night. Got up early and headed out by 7 am.

    Driving on 89 North, I passed ghost town after ghost town. It left an unsettled, eerie feeling. This is Navajo country. It's desert sand for miles as far as you can see; no water, no cattle, no businesses besides an occasional gas station.

    On the sides of the road are Navajo arts and crafts for sale, flea market style, but they are closed; it's only 7:20 am. I passed communities of dozens of modular homes, each matching the other, and plenty of run down trailers. A single wide trailer might have ten parked vehicles outside and another ten that are junked nearby. On 160 East, I spied glittering specks in the terra cotta sand. Is it gold? No, it's broken glass and litter everywhere for miles up and down the road. It makes me sad and disappointed, but I'm not sure who or what to direct my disappointment. Poverty permeates this area, and I can only imagine all the vices and evils that accompany poverty are here as well. After watching Wind River a few years ago, a movie based on a true story of missing women in Wyoming tribal lands, my imagination runs wild. I do not stop here. I have no pictures.
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  • Day27

    Page Springs Winery Tour

    September 27 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 90 °F

    I headed up to Page Springs to hit a few wineries before heading out of the area. This is a self-conducted tour, by the way. My first stop was Page Springs Cellars. This winery was delightful and I spent my time enjoying my plush suite indoors. The patrons around me were all European so their language only made the experience more exotic for this pure-blooded, at least fifth generation American.

    I ordered a flight tasting, a glass of my favorite Colibri Mourvedre, and the Mediterranean Sampler. Everything was wonderful and I left with two bottles. Behind the tasting room are some of their vineyards and barrels. I took a walk around before heading out to the next winery just yards away.

    My second stop was Oak Creek Winery. I ordered a mixed white and red flight of wine and enjoyed while sitting outside by a fountain that sounded like a live creek. Nearby was a group of seven African American military retirees with matching hats. They came in with a 2.5 foot loaf of French bread in a bag which they passed around the table and each pinched off a hunk. They get more and more lively the more they drink. One of them breaks out in doing and starts dirty dancing to Tiesta's The Business... I love hearing their chatter. They are from all over, several from Detroit and they vacation together. They've been vacationing together for many years now.

    My last stop is Javelina Leap. All of their wines are dry, bone dry, which means they have less than 1% sugar. I've never heard that terminology used before, but it is a thing. Bone dry is my style in wine. I talked to Kim who is the wife of the owner. The parents live on the back of the property and Kim is married to their son. They live at the front of the property with their two young sons. Their motto is to only make bone dry wines. If you like sweet, they serve sangria for you.

    I said goodbye to Kris today. At home, our friends and family are preparing for the imminent hurricane, Ian. Because of this, Kris feels called to return to check on everything sooner than I can drive her there. I know it's been a very tense time for everyone back in Florida. I keep having flashbacks to Irma (another hurricane that stared with I).
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  • Day27

    Birthing Cave at Long Canyon Trail

    September 27 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 68 °F

    I had to go back to the Birthing Cave. I woke up and my knees were stellar, so I headed out in the early morning. As I approached the trailhead, there was a young woman there. "Are you going to Birthing Cave?" She asked. "Yes, I am," I replied. There was absolutely no phone signal there so we couldn't access All Trails or the maps. But, I was prepared and had downloaded the map ahead of time. I asked her if she'd like to join me.

    We headed down the trail. "We're looking for the wooden fence and we turn left there," I told her. We made one premature turn, but quickly got back on track. I could see Birthing Cave on the map and the GPS was working on my phone which allowed me to see exactly where we were on the trail.

    She is from Oregon and goes on road trips, camping in her Ford Explorer as she travels. She looks young, early 20s maybe.

    I told her about my hiking experience yesterday and how we were looking for the Birthing Cave. I told her I was a midwife and that's why I was so intrigued by the site. Well, it was almost like it was meant to be. This young Pilgrim who joined me on this trail is enrolled in a "midwife" program. She is enrolled in the Free Birth Society Birthkeeper's certification course. Apart from anyone's views on this newish trend in freebirthing, we could hold space together. She came to this place without ever attending a birth up to this day, but just knowing that birth should be a sacred space where a women holds sovereignty and power. We are here for the same reason.

    I applaud her for her journey, so young. She is birthing herself, starting a new business preparing and delivering meals for postpartum mothers. Starting out in life, hoping she will have her own children one day. I'm ready to retire and pass the baton to another.

    We make it to the top after a steep climb at the end which required careful foot placement and hand holding of rocks to steady and pull myself up, careful to avoid the cactuses.

    Once atop, the sun was hot and bright. It was steep and the rock was slippery and difficult to find a place to grip myself. How did the Hopi women get here and give birth here? Not impossible, for sure. These were strong women. Resilient women who were used to living in the wild. Another young woman from Minnesota was there. She also travels alone, sleeping in her pop-up tent on top of her vehicle.

    It was difficult to take pictures as the sun was so bright and I couldn't see the picture on my camera. I randomly snapped, hoping I would get a few good pictures.

    After 20 minutes in the Birthing Cave, it was time to make my careful descent down the steep slope, backwards. "What is your name?" I asked her. Victoria and I shared info and hopefully she will look me up and contact me.

    Thinking back, I wonder if Native American women did birth here or if they just named it Birthing Cave because it resembles a vagina. Well, it does!
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