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I started to write this post at least 3 times but have let other things get in the way before I could finish, but not today.  As I mentioned in a previous post I went on an amazing trip last spring.  I traveled the Lewis and Clark Trail with the Sisters on the Fly and it was one of the most incredible things I have ever done!  There is so much that I want to write about that I’ve been a little overwhelmed.  After all, I did come home with 4,500 photos!

May 18, 2017 I pulled out of our driveway with my camper, Nadine – a 1972 Nomad that I (with help from Hubby and our boys) totally overhauled.  First, I headed to St Louis, MO, where I spent 2 days touring the city with good friends, Wanda & Jon before meeting up with the ‘Sisters’ to follow the historic Lewis and Clark Trail all the way to Astoria, OR.  In the end, it was 37 days and 6,967.1 miles.  I was one of 115 women who took part in some or all of the adventure with 49 of us making it the whole way and earning the dubious title of ‘All the Way Girls’.  Of that 49, 10 were over the age of 70 and if that isn’t impressive enough, one of those gals did the whole trip on her Harley Davidson trike.  What an inspiration!

Those of you who know me, know that I am a worrier. My husband says I worry too much, but I remind him that I have had many years of practice and that I am very good at it.  But even I feel that when it came to this trip, I brought my level of worry to new heights.  I worried about the camper.  I worried about the pickup.  I worried about the money, the tires, the weather, the road conditions, the animals I could hit on the road, the people I would meet and mostly, I worried about the fact that I had torn this camper apart and put it back together mostly by myself.  What if it fell apart along the way?

Images of trailer trash blowing down a desolate road ditch haunted my dreams but when it came right down to it Nadine performed wonderfully!  We traveled lonely gravel roads in Kansas, cruised at 70 mph on South Dakota interstate, dodged potholes in North Dakota, climbed mountains in Montana and braved narrow city streets in downtown Portland, Oregon.  We drove through fog, mist, rain, sleet, and blizzard conditions with snow & ice – and that was just Nebraska!  But Nadine held together and never hit anything, which is a big plus in my book.  Sure, there were water leaks, check engine lights and a wheel bearing that ran hot but I couldn’t have asked for a better trip.

Before I left home I made a promise to myself, I would keep a journal of this adventure because who knows if I will ever go on another trip like it.  I bought a new Steno-pad notebook to jot down quick notes while traveling and several nice notebooks to write in at night – expanding on my travel notes.  I also threw a handful of pens into the cubby hole of the pickup and another handful in the camper so I wouldn’t run out of ink.  I was ready but as it turned out, Linda D. – the hostess for our trip, was way ahead of me and presented each of us with a beautiful, leather-bound journal our very first night at Eureka, MO.  Here’s what it looked like, along with the compass and canvas bag they came in.

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And here’s how it looks now.

Who knew I would remember how to do beadwork?  Not me.  The last item I beaded was a belt I’d made in high school.  But gazing at so many beautiful beaded pieces in the museums along the way convinced me to try again.  And it must have been fate that I would find a wonderful bead shop less than a mile from our campground the exact day I decided to start.

The finished journal is broke-in now.  The cover’s a little beat up, there’s stains on a few pages and it’s so full of ‘stuff’ that it’s hard to tie shut but I love it because…

It’s crammed full of postcards, with sayings and quotes.

Messages, wishes and pictures of boats!

There’s hair (must be Bigfoots’) and memories galore.

With paintings and stickers and ribbons and more! 

Wow!  I sort of slipped into a Dr. Seuss alter ego for a minute there.  LOL!

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Yet every night (in my own little camper, in my own little chair) I used the scribbled, wonky notes from the Steno-pad to write about everything that had happened that day.  The days were so full that some nights it was midnight before I finished – but thankfully, I did finish.  Otherwise I would have forgotten so much of it, including some things that might be better forgotten, such as the first day which also turned out to be the worst day.

Day 1 – Ready to go.  I kissed Hubby and the dog goodbye, circled the camper one last time, kicked the tires and climbed into the pickup.  I zeroed the trip mileage on the odometer and opened my Steno pad to the first page where I wrote:

“And so the adventure begins.  May 18, 2017 – Thursday.  Odometer Trip reading 0.0 Left home at 7:00 am, terrified at what I am doing.”

And I was terrified.  I drove to the end of the driveway, tears running down my face, wondering (not for the first time) what the Hell was I doing.  I stopped at the mailbox and sat there, suddenly realizing I had never traveled by myself for more that a few days at a time.  This trip, if I made it to the end would be 5 weeks long!!!  Could I do it?  What if the worst happened?  Who would help me if I got into trouble?

I wished Mom was going with me!

Mom would have loved this.  She was always ready for an adventure and we had been on many together – family vacations, quilt retreats & watercolor painting classes and just about any excuse we could think of to hit the road, but Mom passed away 4 years ago and ironically, I hadn’t been on many trips since then.  There I sat – 55 years old and wanting my Mom.

There was only one thing to do.  I wiped away the tears, looked up to the heavens and said, “Get in Mom.  Let’s go.”

And we did.

Now I admit, I don’t know anything about what happens when we die but I have always believed it’s like going home.  One elderly lady I knew a long time ago believed dying was like falling asleep in the car when you were a kid.  You never remembered how you got there but you always woke up safe and warm at home, in your own bed.  I love that.  I can’t prove that Mom joined me for another adventure but from that point on I didn’t feel so alone and throughout the entire trip odd, little things kept happening that made me think just maybe she was there.

For 2 weeks before I left, Hubby had been basically bedridden with a head cold and for 2 weeks I had cared for him while stubbornly refusing to get sick myself.  So of course, 3 days before I left he was feeling better while I was hit full-force with the worst cold I had ever had in my life.  By the time I left I was basically a walking pile of phlegm looking for a place to curl up and die.  But even with aches, pains, a sore throat, sever congestion, and not much of a voice left I was determined to go.  The weather wasn’t helping either.  It was foggy when I left home and the fog became as thick as pea soup by the time I made it to Wind Cave National Park – my first stop.

Trip mileage 47.0 – “I purchased a National Park passport and it was desperately in need of it’s first official stamp so I stopped and got it.  Yippee!  Ok, I’m a nerd… but I’ve had a real US passport for 10 years and never did get a stamp in it so this is big for me.  I didn’t take a tour of the cave today but I did buy a ‘walking stick’ medal which I have decided to nail to the inside doorframe of my camper.”

From there I traveled through Hot Springs, SD and turned south to Cascade, SD and Cascade Falls, a small roadside picnic area.

Trip mileage 95.0 – “Crossed the state line into Nebraska.  The weather is growing worse and so is my cold.  There is no more ‘drizzle’ just rain that comes in sheets.  The wind has also picked up and it seems like no matter which way I turn the camper is hit by a strong cross wind.  How is that even possible?”

I got lost (twice) in Crawford, NE (a.k.a. the Bermuda Triangle of the Midwest) and passed through Ft Robinson State Park even though I couldn’t see it through the sleet and fog.  From there it was on to the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.  I had planned to take one of their hiking trails to stretch my legs at this point but the sheet of ice on the front of my camper convinced me to just tour the nice, warm visitor center instead.

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I was really looking forward to seeing their ‘corkscrew’ fossils which are actually the ancient tunnels of a prehistoric ‘prairie dog’ like rodent known as Daemonelix.  They lived 19 million years ago and are actually related to beavers.  I watched the movie and enjoyed the great displays then bought a pin at the gift shop (because they didn’t have walking stick medals) and got another stamp in my Parks Passport.  Whoo-who, two stamps in one day, I’m on a roll!

Back on the road the weather had turned into a full-blown blizzard.  Snowflakes as big as horse turds blew across the road and stuck to the side of the camper.  I was sicker than a dizzy Daemonelix but I pushed on and made it to Oshkosh, NE where I stopped at a gas station across from a storage unit named the Cramalot Inn (no, I did not make that up) then drove to North Platte and the Buffalo Bill Ranch campground for a total of 418.1 miles.

I managed to park fairly straight and plug in the camper before dragging my rain-soaked carcass into to the camper where I discovered Nadine had developed a leak.  The pickup tires had been picking up water off the road and blowing it into the bottom edge of the front windows which no longer sealed tight.  Water had soaked into a couple of books, a blanket and my shotgun.  Yes, I’m armed and dangerous when I travel but frankly by that time, it looked more like a water gun than a threat.  Thankfully, the bed was mostly dry so I used towels to wipe everything down then went to get my PJ’s.

Surprise, another leak!!!  Apparently, the gasket on the running light outside the camper wasn’t completely sealed either.  My PJ’s, on the top shelf of the closet, were as wet as my shotgun.  I pulled out the driest set and used the coffee pot to heat water for my supper – Chicken flavored Cup O Noodles.   As I waited for the noodles to soften in their Styrofoam cup, I seriously considered heading for home in the morning.  It sounded very appealing as I sat in my damp pajamas, writing the days events in my soggy notebook and blowing my nose every 5 seconds, but even with everything that had happened I can be a pretty stubborn old broad.  I grew tired as the heater filled my leaky, little palace on wheels with warmth.  Either I was delirious or there was a tiny glimmer of hope because the last entry in my journal for Day 1 reads:

“Tomorrow will be better.”

And it was.

Thank God for stubbornness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I did it!  I attended my very first Sisters On The Fly weekend.  What a nice bunch of ladies and they really do (as their motto says) “Have more fun than anyone”. 

Of Course Steve wanted to go with.

Sorry, Big Fella – no men, of any kind allowed.

I took my sweet little trailer, Ruby – or as she’s know now – Rattlin’ Ruby and we spent a couple of days at Stockade Lake campground in beautiful Custer State Park.  It was like a trip home since I had worked and lived in CSP for two years when I was fresh out of High School. 

 I had to wait till after work on Friday before I could head over there but with only 35 miles to go it didn’t take me long.  I had spent the previous weeks getting stuff ready. I told Hubby that I was ready to go since I had packed everything, including the kitchen sink!  Ruby is still pretty ‘rustic’ but nobody cared – their campers had started out ‘rustic’ too. 

And just look at them now…

Everywhere I looked there were cute little campers…

 

OK – got to get a canopy!!!  I got so many good ideas – it was wonderful!

And everyone was so eager to share.  I made it into almost every camper there.

I was in Vintage Camper Hog Heaven and loving every minute.

But the highlight of the trip for me was when this rolled into camp.

 This SWEET little pickup and camper are owned by a local fella I have known for years.  Since this is a very special little camper it’s owner, Jim, was asked to bring her by even though it meant breaking all the rules when it came to ‘ men in camp’. 

I have driven past this camper hundreds of times over the years and always wondered what she looked like inside.  I had even asked about buying it at one point but as soon as I saw inside I realized why it would never be for sale. 

 

Jim is an artist and an amazing person.  I had no idea just how artistic he is until I saw this. 

Check out all the metal egg beaters on the ceiling.  I bet there were at least 70 of them without the handles screwed up there. 

I was blown away!  I just had to sit down and look.  Every surface was filled with hood ornaments, trophy parts and bits and pieces of all manner of things.  There was so much that like me, my camera didn’t know what to focus on so I’m afraid the photos don’t do it justice.

This was my favorite part – doesn’t the bed look like a berth on an old ship – so tiny and cozy.  He said he had to add this wall because the sides of the trailer were pulling out.  So he copied the arch of the camper doorway and made a great little cubbie hole for the bed.  I might just have to steal that idea for one of my campers.  And another thing I’m definitely going to do is copy the way he built his screen door.

Is that beautiful or what?

Jim’s son and grandson were there too.  His son is working on another old trailer that I’m betting will be just as wonderful as this one.  What a nice bunch of guys.

I did have a great time last weekend and will have to do it again.  The SOTF gals will be getting together the end of this month when the people of central Nebraska have their annual ‘Junk Jaunt’.  This event is a 3 day, 300 mile long rummage, antique, vendor filled sale that makes a loop through some of the prettiest country in Nebraska.  I was really thinking about attending until I got home Sunday afternoon and learned we will be moving yearlings that weekend.  Oh well, that gives me a whole year to save my pennies for the next one.

Thank you to all my new sisters for all the fun and especially the wonderful warm welcome I received.  I look forward to seeing you all again!

 

 

 

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Now that the forest fires have burned out and everyone seems to be on the mend (including the cat) things have quieted down quite a bit – Thank Goodness!!!

Finally, I have gotten back to working on my girls – Nadine and Ruby.  Ruby has only gotten a quick once over with soap and water but Nadine is the one who has made real progress. 

Yikes!  OK – she still needs some major work on the outside and definitely a new paint job but she’s almost livable on the inside.  And would you look at that – I never even noticed that the wheels were two different colors – don’t worry – I can fix that…  What do you think – chrome rims with spinners?  Oh, Baby!!!   Call in the Slurry Bombers – she’ll be smoking!!!

But back to my story…  Even though Nadine isn’t finished we have been on a couple of adventures this summer.  She followed me to the County Fair where we had a ball and several girl friends even stopped by to check out my little piece of  ‘Heaven on Wheels’!  You guessed it – they all want one too.

Then since Hubby was feeling left out because he couldn’t come to the fair we hitched her up and headed West to the Big Horn Mountains for the long Labor Day weekend.  We actually had running water on this trip even though the water heater wasn’t working yet and neither was the refrigerator, shower or furnace which turned out to be something we could have really used as the temperatures outside were very close to freezing at night.  I told Hubby it was just a good excuse to snuggle.

Vacation wasn’t the only excuse to get out of town.  We also had to make a small delivery.  Our first stop was Gillette, WY at my brother and sister-in-laws house.  Scott needed a welder so we hauled one of the big ones to his house.  Actually, I think the welder weights as much as his little loader – notice the back wheels off the ground?  And goodness gracious – his wheels are two different colors too.  It  must run in the family.

But Scott has nerves of steel and a steel roll cage so no one seemed to be too worried.  After we unloaded the welder we hitched Nadine back up and headed west and wouldn’t you know it – we ran into mountains. 

 Big mountains…

The Big Horns are beautiful!!!  And obviously, everyone else thought so too as there were people everywhere but luck was on our side and we missed all the really busy campgrounds and ended up driving completely across the Big Horns and down the other side.  We then had the option of either climbing back up the way we had come or to push onward and see new territory. 

Hubby and I talked it over – while eating lunch beside Dirty Annie’s Trading Post (Hey – you just can’t make this stuff up).  After studying the situation we came up with a new rule for traveling with Nadine – ‘Never go back’ (unless, of course, parts fall off and we have to go back and get them).  So… since nothing had fallen off the old girl we continued on into Greybull and then turned north to the town of Lovell.  It was a wonderful drive but we decided we should really head back to the mountains and find a campground before it got dark.  So we turned east toward the mountains and drove until we found this sign:

Looks like my kind of road.  I mean really, what good is having a pickup if you don’t take roads like this?  And Nadine is only 20 feet long so we had 10 feet to spare.  There was another small sign that promised the Five Springs Campground was at the end of this road so we headed up the side of the mountain.  I have to admit, the sign was right – the road was everything it had promised but when we reached the top there was the prettiest little campground you ever saw. 

Nadine fit right in.

We were parked right next to a beautiful (but icy cold) creek.

Nadine was a vision and totally at home in the great outdoors.

Of course, any time you travel with Nadine, adventure is not far behind…

I didn’t get any photos of the stuff that went on that night but I’m seriously thinking I need to invest in night vision goggles.  Sometime, in the middle of the night I began to hear weird noises.  At first I thought something was outside – maybe a bear!  I lifted the curtain to peek outside – nothing – but then I realized the noises were coming from inside Nadine’s cupboards!  Somewhere along the way my dear little camper had become the new playground for a rowdy pack of ferel campground mice!!!  Hubby swears they came in by crawling up the electrical plug-in cord.  He said he heard the little flap door bouncing as they snuck into our humble abode.  We heard a few squeaks then the pitter-patter of tiny furry feet.  This went on for some time – I would switch on my little reading light – the kind that hooks onto your book but as soon as the light came on all would be quiet.  Then, when the light went out – the party would start up again.  Nadine’s floor space isn’t that big but Boy Howdy did those mice enjoy it!  They ran, they squeaked, I swear they were doing gymnastic routines.  I took it for a while then crawled over the top of Hubby and got out the big guns – peanut butter and mouse traps.  I set the traps and crawled back in bed to wait.   It wasn’t long before we heard the deafening snap of a mouse trap followed by the scuffle of a struggling rodent.  It was over quickly but it didn’t seem to faze the rest of the pack.  At least 8 more furry little feet went running in wild abandon across the floor. 

It was all very exciting. 

We got one mouse the first night and another one the next.  Technically, the 2nd mouse probably doesn’t count as it barely caught him and I turned the little bugger loose outside – still very much alive.  The third mouse traveled home with us where it too met its demise in the wicked trap.  Sorry, little mice but I can’t run the risk of having you chew through all that new plumbing.

But back to the Big Horns – Sunday morning we hiked up behind the campground to the Five Springs Falls.

If you look real close you can see the top of the falls right above the trees in the center of the photo.  But the bottom of the waterfall looks like this.

And this:

 Stunning!!!

One of our camping neighbors, Bill from St. Paul, who had been coming to this same campground since the 70’s said he had actually showered in the waterfall a couple of times.  I tried to soak my feet in the stream but nearly lost toes to instantaneous frost bite.  I don’t think I’m as tough as Bill.

We spent two nights in our new favorite campground – sitting in the sun, snoozing in the lawn chairs and generally doing nothing at all.  It was great!!!

 There was beautiful views no matter which way you looked.  Check it out – just like home – black cows everywhere.

 When we left Monday morning I had Hubby pull off so I could get a picture of Nadine hanging onto the edge of the mountain.  The photos just don’t do it justice – it was damn steep!

We crept down the hillside then climbed back to the top on the main road, stopping long enough to hike out to the Medicine Wheel and then on into Sheridan, WY to something everyone should see at least once in their lives – Don King Days. 

No – not the guy with the hair!

But that’s another story…

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