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Posts Tagged ‘Lewis & Clark trail’

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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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  Spring is here.  The bees are buzzing, the pastures are full of new calves and the trees are blooming.  Spring also means it will soon be time to get my campers hitched up and out on the road again and I can’t wait.  If you’ve read my previous post (Sept 2016 – yes, it’s been awhile) you will have seen photos of the major parts of the ’72 Nomad (Nadine’s) overhaul.  But since there are always lots of ‘little things’ to finish I have been working on her most of last winter – whenever the weather was nice enough to be outside.

I have added additional cabinets, hooked up the water tank which is now mounted on the trailer hitch, found her an adorable kitchen sink, finished the cabinet front under the bed and added shelves and storage everywhere I could.  Just when I feel like I’m getting close to finishing I come up with something new to add.

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A home for the fly fishing rods and reels.

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A galvanized sink.

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And the storage space under the bed.

But all of that will come to a screeching halt soon, because in one short month I will be hitting the road to join the Sisters On The Fly for the biggest camping trip I have ever done.  We will be following the Lewis and Clark Trail from St Louis, MO to Astoria, OR.  The trip will take us about 4 weeks to complete and it will take me an additional 3 days to get to St. Louis and probably 4 days to return home from Astoria.  Round trip, I will travel over 4,400 miles but some of the Sisters will have many mores miles than that.  There are 59 Sisters planning on doing the whole trip with more joining for parts of it so it should be quite an adventure.

It’s freaking me out a little bit that there is so much to do before I leave – the work on the camper & the planning and packing.  And of course sometimes I have to wake up in the middle of the night to worry and wonder “What the hell was I thinking?”  But the sun rises and my worries evaporate in the daylight and I remind myself to take it one day at a time.   The important stuff will get done and if I forget something it can be replaced.

There are 13 stops along the way where we will spend 1 to 3 days & nights before moving on and our biggest day of travel is still under 400 miles so I know I can do that.   And if the worst happens and I have to pull out the trip part way I will find my way home with wonderful memories of the part I did see.

We have an amazing lady in charge of the trip and she has lined up hostesses for each of the stops.  These gals have been hard at work setting up fun and interesting things for us to see and do such as a paddle wheel cruise at St Louis, campfire entertainment, social events, catered meals, museums and historic sites, a chance to see the original journals of Lewis & Clark and lots of fun (and sometimes unusual sites along the way) such as Ladies night at the Sip & Dip Lounge in Great Falls, MT where mermaids and mermen swim in the pool behind the bar.  OK, I admit I am really looking forward to this stop not only for the mermen but also for their signature drink – ‘The Fish Bowl’.  I’m not sure what’s in it but I’ll let you know how it is, if I can remember.  Ha!

For now, it’s back to the camper to see what else I can work on.

Happy Trails!

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