Mid-Summer – Following Lewis and Clark – Part 1 to Great Falls, MT.

On a rainy afternoon around 4:00pm on May 14, 1804, Captains William Clark and Meriwether Lewis left Camp River Dubois on the east side of the Mississippi River. It was the start of their epic journey in search of an inland waterway to the Pacific. They recruited the last of the 48 men who would start the journey – men selected for their ability to do strenuous labor with skills in hunting, fishing, carpentry, blacksmithing, tailoring, or soldiering. In addition to the 48 and the two Captains, was Clark’s personal slave, York, and Lewis’ Newfoundland dog, Seaman.

We are following as much of the Corps trail as we can in preparation for our month of volunteering in Washington state’s Cape Disappointment State Park. I’m going to focus here on some of the highlights of what have learned. First, Camp Dubois is part of Lewis and Clark Historic Site in Hartford, IL. Here we saw a full-scale model of the keelboat that was the workhorse of the first part of the Corp’s expedition. It carried the bulk of the supplies that the Corps relied on at the start of the trip. The keelboat (measuring 55’ long and 8’4’ wide) carried 12 to 15 tons and was basically a barge-like structure with a mast, 22 oars, and a sail. The keelboat could be powered in 4 ways which was necessary since the Missouri had strong currents, unpredictable depths, eddies, unstable river banks and hidden snags. Whether under sail, or by rowing the 22 oars, or poling it up the river, or towing it with ropes, the work was painfully slow and on a good day, the Corps made 14 miles.

Peter imagines what it was like to push the keelboat upriver.

We learned that the Captains had planned to take the keelboat as far as the Mandan Villages in North Dakota and then send it back downriver to St. Louis in the spring of 1805 with a small crew and an abundance of plant, mineral samples, and animal specimens (including a live prairie dog) for President Thomas Jefferson. This was what actually happened. In addition to the keelboat, the Corp traveled with two pirogues, or flat-bottom boats, which measured 41 feet, had a single mast and a square sail and 7 oars. Each carried a crew of 8 and 9 tons of supplies. All three were part of the original fleet that left St. Charles on the Missouri on May 24, 1804.

Our second stop was the Boathouse in St. Charles, Missouri. There, I became interested in the medicine chest that Lewis carried with him as the guardian of the Corps’ health. In preparation for the journey, President Jefferson had sent Lewis to study with the leading physician of the day, Dr. Benjamin Rush. Lewis went to Philadelphia for several months and then stocked his medicine chest with the remedies of the day, augmented with treatments he had learned from his mother, who was an herbalist. The resulting display (at the boathouse and again in other places) confirmed treatments that would today be seen as progressive (herbal treatments using creme of tartar, calamine ointment, Peruvian bark), barbaric (bleeding) and completely dangerous (mercury). Along the way west, Lewis amended his medical protocols with treatments from the indigenous people he met. For example, rattlesnake rattle was used to speed up a slow labor, a treatment he employed with his only known obstetric patient, Sakakawea. While Lewis was notoriously self-critical, his skill as the medical officer was pretty evident since in the entire 2 + years of the expedition, Lewis lost only one member, Charles Floyd, from illness that Lewis could not cure. Floyd died from what experts today surmise was an infection caused by a ruptured appendix.

Lewis carried a box of medical treatments and surgical tools with him and this shows some of the items.

From St. Charles, we journeyed up the Missouri and camped in Lewis and Clark State Park in Buchanan County, Missouri on July 1. This was interesting because it was near here that the Corps celebrated the first July 4th by shooting off their cannon. It was the first recorded celebration of Independence Day west of the Mississippi. Each man was rationed a shot of whiskey and the Captains named a nearby creek Independence Creek in honor of the occasion. Just before leaving the next morning, Peter and I walked to an outdoor exhibit area and down to the lake that lies where an oxbow of the Missouri once flowed. We looked out on the open prairies, imagining what the explorers must have been feeling.

On one July morning, 1804, Clark wrote (spelling as he wrote the entry), “Capt. Lewis and my Self walked in the Prarie on the top of the Bluff and observed the most butifull prospects imaginable, this Prarie is Covered with grass about 10 or 12 Inch high… under those high Lands…the river is butifull Bottom interspersed with Groves of timber, the River may be Seen for a great Distance”.

As we journeyed further up the Missouri, I wanted to make a stop at the grave of Charles Floyd, the man who Lewis could not save. Floyd died on August 20, 1804 and was buried with military honors in a grave which has since been moved a few times up and off the ever-changing Missouri in present-day Sioux City, Iowa. When Floyd died, just months into the start of their journey, the Corps must have wondered how many more of them would succumb to illness or injury and never make it back. We learned that on their return trip two years later, the Corp made a solemn stop to pay homage to Floyd at his gravesite. They discovered that Floyd’s gravesite had been disturbed and Clark ordered it properly filled in with soil before they returned down river, now with the realization, remarkably, that Floyd had been the only casualty of the expedition. Later, this National Park Service monument was erected on the site.

We experienced the lush green hills and open prairies changing into the open sky and vast expanses of the Dakotas. Near present-day Pierre, South Dakota we spent three days exploring the site of the first open confrontation between the Corps and the Brule band of the Teton Sioux. The Corps met with three chiefs over a series of days holding council, feasting and celebrating. They offered them the usual trinkets and gifts that they had planned to exchange. What they failed to fully comprehend was that the Brule had established themselves as successful traders along this section of the Missouri. Defending their established routes was an economic imperative and the Corps was not prepared for the rigor of their negotiations. The chiefs demanded more that the medals and gifts the Captains offered. One chief seized the mast of the pirogue in which he had been riding and a skirmish nearly turned violent as warriors on the shore drew their bows. Clark drew his sword. The Corps loaded their weapons. One of the other chiefs, Black Buffalo, managed to restore order and avoid serious violence in one of the most tense meetings of the entire expedition.

This encounter is a detail from history that we didn’t learn in school. In fact, the Corps was stumbling into an economic system that had been well-established between and among the indigenous tribes and later with the Europeans who, for about 100 years, ventured up and down the major rivers. The British and French had set up some trading posts along the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri in the mid-1700s but the Americans, after the Louisiana Purchase, traveled with the intent on exploring the rivers, looking for the passage to the Pacific, and establishing their superior position over previous European traders. In addition, the Corps announced that all the land which the tribes lived on now belonged to the “Great Father” in Washington, DC and that he would tend to “his children”, a detail that was often misunderstood in translation. Certainly, the challenge of the different languages these 50 tribes spoke contributed to the problem. However, of even greater significance was the concept of the ownership of the land. For example, the land and all creation, for the Oglala Sioux, “are the works of the Great Spirit.” All creation enjoyed a relationship that was intimate and interchangeable and required constant attention and reverence. For the Chinook along the Columbia River, occupancy and use of land was managed by key leaders who regulated access, prohibiting trespassing and charging a “tribute” for others to use prized Chinook fishing grounds. Both the fluidity and the variability of the tribal beliefs were incompatible with what President Jefferson believed. For him, the economic future of the now-expanded country lay in the civic virtues of the yeoman farmer who owned his own land and therefore, had a stake in the nation. This significant ideological conflict, along with many others, would prove disastrous for the indigenous people as the settling of the West unfolded, a realization too profound for this blog.

Next, we journeyed into North Dakota and the Knife River Villages. These five villages included two Mandan and three Hidatsa settlements who lived in earth lodges (see below). We learned that the Corps arrived there in December 1804 after following maps that had been developed by French trappers and traders. The most reliable one had been created between 1795-1797 by John Evans and James Mackay. Mackay had actually met with Clark in January 1804 to discuss his findings and the map. Clark relied on its accuracy and landed in the Knife River Villages, spending 156 days there. Clark created his own map of the villages which appears below.

Upon arriving at Knife River, the Corps was told that they would need to build a fort for themselves quickly in preparation for the imminent winter. This information made it very clear that the survival of the Corps was deeply tied to the guidance and instructions from the tribes they met. We discovered that the journals of Clark and Lewis are full of dozens of names of chiefs from the tribes they met who helped and instructed them along the way. Here in Mandan Village the chief, Sheheke, promised the captains that through the winter, “if we eat, you eat; if we starve, you starve”. It was as good as it was going to get as the men built Fort Mandan a couple of miles from Villages. That winter saw temperatures the men had never before experienced. On December 17, 1804, Clark wrote, “about 8:00, pm, the thermometer fell to 74 below the freezing point.” The snow and bitter cold led them to hunker down some days with temperatures too cold to even hunt. They relied on trading for squash, corn, sunflower cakes, and dried squash, shown above. This was the winter they hired Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian trader who lived among the Hidatsa and could speak both Hidatsa and French. His second wife, Sakakewa, was delivered of a son, Jean-Baptiste in February (Lewis acted as the midwife in the difficult delivery) and their presence on the journey the spring of 1806 had remarkable effects on the success and the survival of the expedition. We learned that when tribes realized that a woman and a baby were traveling with the Corps, it signified the strangers came in peace since war parties never traveled with women and children.

By April 1805, the Corps was ready to head west once again. They were now entering interior territory virtually unexplored by any white people and this time, there were no reliable maps to follow. They relied on the information from the indigenous people whose trade routes were long-standing. From them, they were told of some great falls further up the Missouri which they would have to portage. This portage is a stunning example of the complexity of the journey. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls, Montana is one of the best we have encountered. Here we learned that Lewis had set out in advance to scope out what the falls were all about. He was completely in awe of the majesty of the sight of the five waterfalls that he encountered, each more stunning and majestic than the next. Upon returning to camp, he told Clark that this was not going to be one half-day portage. Instead it would require a grueling 18-mile trek around the falls lasting nearly one month.

Life-size diorama shows how the Corps struggled to move equipment in the portage at Great Falls.

Clark wrote on June 20, 1805, “we all believe we are about to enter on the most perilous and difficult part of our voyage”. It was an understatement. From June 22 to July 2, the Corps was stretched to the limits pushing and dragging the heavy loads uphill from the river over gullies and up steep hills to the prairies. The life-size diorama in the Center is fabulous. Their moccasins were punctured by cactus, the blazing heat and then downpours of rain were intermingled with a sudden hailstorm with hail the size of golf balls which pelted the men as they labored. The schedule for their progress was seriously impacted by the challenges of the geography for which they were ill-prepared. The test of their endurance led Clark to write, “all appear perfectly to have made up they minds, to Succeed in the expedition or perish in the attempt”. When the once again reached the Missouri, the Captains realized the delay meant they would not reach the Pacific in 1805. There was not enough time and the other challenge the Knife River people mentioned still lay ahead.

They had been told of a range of “shining mountains” and crossing them would be only possible with horses which the Shoshone had and they would have to trade with them. Plans were made to hire guides and translators to facilitate this. Here’s a surprising detail we learned about the complexities of the communications issues the Corps faced. Here is the way it worked in one simple example of Clark asking the Shoshone to trade for some horses. First, Clark would make a statement in English. One of the interpreters who spoke English would then translate it to French. A French-speaker would then translate it into Hidatsa so a fourth translation could go from Hidatsa to Shoshone, the language that the horse-owners spoke. Then, the entire process reversed when the Shoshone made their response: Shoshone-Hidatsa-French-English. Not an easy task and no wonder the nuances of language and customs got sticky in the process.

The divergence in the cultures of the indigenous people is evident in these historic photos taken a century after the Corps visited. They were not a monolithic people who could be generalized. Lewis and Clark were ill-prepared for the complexity of this reality since their military timeline allowed them a pre-eminent focus – attempt to find the inland waterway to the Pacific and map it. One historian wrote that because Lewis and Clark had to keep moving, they were more like tourists than diplomats. And the repercussions of that is evident to this day.

The Corps still had about 800 miles to journey before arriving at the Pacific Ocean, a trip that Clark estimated at 4,100 miles. We are ending this narrative here after sharing some of the most significant of the insights from this initial experience with a more behind-the-scenes look at the Corps.

Liz and Peter continue their pilgrimage to here in year eight, traveling the country in their Airstream and keeping the notebooks close by for all that interesting detail.

Early Summer in New England

This magnificent red oak sits at the entrance to the campground we called home in New Hampshire.

We arrived in New Hampshire on June 6 after a leisurely 12-day and 2,600 miles trip from Las Cruces. This road trip, taken at a much more reasonable pace, provided the opportunity to observe the landscape and the raw majesty of this land. Starting in the high desert of New Mexico, passing through the drought-stricken and dusty panhandle of Texas and Oklahoma and east of Tulsa, we had our first sighting of the hardwood forests and gentle rolling hills that are hallmarks of the 100th meridian and the start of the Great Plains. This served as a pre-cursor of the deeper and more expansive hardwood stands and the dramatic river valleys of the Ozark Mountains in Missouri where the abundance of rainfall created a towering green canopy punctuated with the bright splashes of sunlit fields, now dizzy with wild phlox. These are the serendipitous encounters with the early summer beauty that occur when moving more slowly across the country.

Our trip is now powered by our new F-150, Ruby, who in April 2022 replaced our original 2015 model F-150.

We crossed the Mississippi River, this time at St. Louis, and we were again back “east”. We stopped overnight in Terre Haute, Indiana on the last day of May. I spend the first 2 years of my long and often winding road of undergraduate education at Saint-Mary-of-the Woods College, then an all-women’s Catholic college (it has since turned co-ed). The campus was particularly glorious in the afternoon sunlight and it was both haunting and comforting to be making this pilgrimage to a place that was so formative in my young adult life. I lighted votive candles in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on the campus (shown in the second image here below), speaking the names of some most dear to me. I can feel the sacredness of this place founded in 1840 by the 42 year-old French nun, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. I imagine this woman and her troupe of five sisters, traveling by ship, steamboat and stagecoach for 2 months from France arriving in the Indiana wilderness in 1838 with the idea of opening a convent, an academy for girls, and ministering to the needs of the sick and of orphans. Her perseverance in the face of overwhelming physical, financial and organizational challenges, (including a Bishop who once ex-communicated her defying him), inspired me then and now. I am cherishing these four images here from that glorious day.

We stopped for 2 nights at the Mothership (Airstream central in Jackson Center, Ohio) for our annual tune-up on T2. All went well and there were no surprises which, for a 2015 trailer which has been towed 90,000 miles and is lived in 24/7, is great news. We drove county roads and state highways through the rolling farm land of Ohio, Pennsylvania and central New York State before climbing up the Green Mountains in Vermont and cruising down the east side for our first peak at the iconic Mount Monadnock from the viewing platform at Hogback Mountain along Route 9 in Wilmington, Vermont. We landed at the campground and I want to share some of the experiences we have had here because they illuminate our full-timing life.

Peter in the lobby of Airstream’s new Visitor’s Center at Jackson Center, Ohio.

After 8 years on the road, we find a trip to the storage area we are still renting both liberating and deeply reflective. It’s like walking into a museum of our lives. When we left in 2014, we managed to free ourselves of 90% of our stuff but that last 10% has taken on a life of its own. What stories wait quietly in the photo albums that fill 3 large U-Haul boxes? We discovered 3 oversized flat boxes holding the original art work that we didn’t sell, thinking maybe someday we would have a tiny house and its presence would fill the walls. We found one each of the western chairs, hall table and bar stools with tooled leather seats and tops designed by our friend and western artist, Buckeye Blake. These date back to the early 1990s when we had our furniture company, Due West. Our lives were so different back then when we were living out our dream of bringing livable art into practical settings. The hand-carved candlesticks, shown below, that we purchased from a master woodcarver in California sit in the archives waiting patiently for their new life.

I found one box filled with samples of some of the best things we produced for clients during the years we owned our advertising/marketing company in the early to mid- 2000s. They might as well be footprints from a giant sloth discovered during an archeological dig in White Sands, New Mexico. The discovery was both awesome and curious – relics from a distant past. We encountered a file cabinet and emptied its contents into a large duffle bag which is heading for the anonymity of the shredder, no longer defensible in the storage space. Museum curators must sometime be rigorous.

We spent days visiting family and friends. The grandchildren who live here in New Hampshire, like the ones in Florida, have mysteriously morphed into young adults, a fact that becomes more obvious and more convincing in person. A random collection of my siblings and I managed to journey last week to my mother’s home in Peterborough where she reigns, staying in the house where she and my father lived when they sold our childhood home on Long Island and moved to New Hampshire in the mid-1980s. This remarkable woman will be 99 years old in July and she continues to live there alone, 9 years after my Dad’s passing.

We caught up with one of Peter’s oldest friends whom we haven’t seen in 15 years. After five hours of visiting and eating and laughing and reminiscing we vowed to repeat the reunion but in a shorter time frame, aware of the fragility of any decades-out planning for septuagenarians. On another day, a leisurely noontime lunch with another friend melted into mid-afternoon with effortless conversation. “This is what retired people do”, our friend joked as we wrapped up our time together, stiffly lifting ourselves out of the comfortable chairs and heading to the restrooms.

On our last full day in town we ran into a collection of friends quite by accident in between two scheduled meet-ups. We started off the day with coffee with Peter’s oldest son who was running an errand for us. Then, we serendipitously encountered people from the entire timeline of my time in the Monadnock region stretching back to 1975. One couple, who I last saw back in 2003, are now 80 and I’m seeing that octogenarian mile-marker in a completely new light. Another woman had been the dental hygienist when my son was in first grade (he is turning 45 this year) and I haven’t crossed paths with her for a decade or more. A third person was the former boyfriend of one of our employees during our years owning the advertising/marketing company. How easily the years have slipped like rain drops into the rivers of memory.

The Ashuelot River in West Swanzey, New Hampshire where my days began with morning walks and solitude.

We ended the time talking with our one of our granddaughters who is a rising senior at Saint Lawrence College and is just back from a life-changing study-abroad experience in Copenhagen which opened doorways to multiple other excursions around Europe. What a gift of joy and love and hope Peter and I both received after the all-too-brief time with her. The world is in very good hands if we boomers have the good sense to get out of the way, open the doors and windows, and let the winds of change freshen up and enliven the place.

One of the joys of being back in New Hampshire includes easy access to great ice cream. New Englanders are known for being picky when it comes to ice cream and while Peter and I have experienced some wonderful ice cream elsewhere in our travels (most recently Salt and Straw in California) our heart is with the local ice cream shops like Kimball Farms and Walpole Creamery, right here in the Monadnock region. Real maple walnut ice cream, made with maple syrup, still brings tears to my eyes. This trip we have repeatedly indulged in the long-standing summer evening tradition of going out for ice cream after a full day. The simple ritual feels particularly poignant this year after the long bout of shut-downs and shut-ins and separation from one another.

I feel particularly thankful for this visit which, like the New Hampshire summer itself, is always too brief. The past year brought its share of health challenges for both of us. My eye sight and vision continues to improve after my cataract surgery in late April so I am especially delighted to experience the glory of peonies, and the tail end of the lilac season here in the northeast. Peter continues to re-gain his strength and stamina after his second knee replacement in July, jealously guarding his walking routine and his resistance bands. This week, we finally released our bicycles which had been in storage for a couple of years. It was time to donate them. Our local bike shop will refurbish them and then see they get to the local homeless shelter where they will be put to essential use.

We headed back west on June 19, starting our 6-week and 3,500 mile-trip to our August volunteer position at Cape Disappointment State Park in Washington state. There, we’ll be hosts at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. But first, after leaving New Hampshire, we will be stopping for a few days to visit our dear friends in upstate New York. While there, we will most likely find time to enjoy the local favorite ice creams from Pittsford Farms Dairy. After all, it’s what you do in New England in the early summer.

Peter and Liz are still living on the road after 8 years in their Airstream, T2. This year, they are continuing to find new adventures while cherishing each and every stop.

A snapshot of our gifts from 2021.

This has been quite a year, hasn’t it? Peter and I have been blessed to be able to travel safely from Florida where we were last Christmas to Las Cruces, New Mexico where we are now and where we will spend this Christmas. In between the late-April departure from the east coast to today, we stuffed in one airplane flight back to Tampa at the end of May for Liz’s in-person graduation ceremony at Saint Leo University and then took a quick flight to New Hampshire. There, we visited Liz’s 98-year old mother and joined a family celebration in Keene with our oldest granddaughter who received her undergraduate degree from University of Vermont the very same day that Liz received her Master’s degree in Florida.

Read more: A snapshot of our gifts from 2021.
Marking history, Liz donned her academic hood (Theology is red) to pose with our oldest granddaughter, Isabel, a Fulbright scholar, who graduated with honors from the University of Vermont.

In July, Peter had an unexpected total knee replacement in Las Cruces, making this his third joint replacement and officially earning him the moniker “bionic guy” in our family. Peter spent the better part of seven weeks in focused rehab and rest (a tough balancing act) before we departed for a long-planned trip through western Colorado, the Tetons (staying at Gros Ventre Campground), and then west to the Pacific Northwest. This was both vacation and a purposeful trip to drop off T2, our Airstream, for updating in the capable hands of Ultimate Airstreams in Clackamas, Oregon. We unhitched T2 on October 4 at Ultimate and traveled around Washington state, exploring Mount Hood, Mt. Rainier National Park, the Paloose of eastern Washington, and the Columbia River Gorge. We visited the spot where the Snake River flows into the Columbia at Sacajewa State Park and tried to capture bits and pieces in the pictures below. We stopped to visit a friend in Albany, Oregon, traveled down the Pacific coast through the redwoods, and then spent time with friends in Windsor, California. From California, we turned toward New Mexico, landing a camping spot one night in Joshua Tree National Park and then turned east through the saguaros of Arizona back to Las Cruces.

On December 30, we will mark our seventh anniversary of living full time on the road. Our 2015 Airstream has been refreshed over the years as we discovered what we needed in order to live comfortably and efficiently in our aluminum tiny house. Back in 2017, Ultimate reduced the long couch we did not need, upgraded the cushions, and installed an essential built-in cabinet. That year we also added a comfortable lounge chair, trimmed down the width of the dining table, and installed a combination gas cooktop and gas oven.

This time we wanted to refresh the interior and improve the efficiency of the kitchen work area. I love the 2021 interior design of new Airstream kitchen cabinets, the deep side cupboard access, the rectangular stainless sink and the lightness of the color palette in the beautiful Globetrotter. Ultimate was able to bring the dream to life for T2, changing out the entire kitchen installing new countertops in a light color, changing out the dining table to butcher block, installing a new countertop on the built-in cabinet, adding a spice rack next to the cook-top and switching out the bathroom countertop. I am going to share pictures which will reveal the entirely new look of our living Christmas gift to each other.

The round kitchen sink and the dark green countertops (shown below) were the original design. The new sleek cabinet, undercounter storage, and drop-down shelf next to the sink completely changed the look and feel of T2. The butcher block dining table inspired a new collection of textiles in pillows which bring rich textures to our lives. We love the overall effect.

The next two photos show what the bathroom looked like when we purchased T2 in 2015 – no window, white walls and the original dark green countertops. Now (the window was added in 2017) we have light countertops which work beautifully with the grass paper and paint which we put in earlier this year.

Our current plans are to stay here in the southwest through April and then take to the road heading east for our annual maintenance work at the mothership in Jackson Center, Ohio and then drive to New Hampshire to visit family in June before turning back west in early summer. We have new dreams and new ideas and we get restless for the road after a few months, so we’ll see how 2022 unfolds. Be well and take care of one another. Peace.

Liz and Peter are continuing their pilgrimage to here in their Airstream, enriched along the way by the gifts of friends and the continued discovery of beauty in everyday life.

The pandemic, Easter, and the seeds of hope.

From 2020, Peter as Koreshan Unity founder Cyrus Teed and Terry Mirande as the Unity co-leader, Victoria Gratia.

As I sit in our metaphorical Easter garden of hope and spring renewal, I am surveying the state of our symbolic little plot of ground. What is sprouting this year?  It’s an understatement to note it has been a transformational year.  Peter and I marked the one year anniversary of the pandemic a few weeks back on March 13, 2021. We picked this date because it was March 13, 2020 when we learned that our beloved Koreshan State Park was being shut down. I remember the day so clearly because the president of our volunteer organization called to tell me that the balance of the Women’s History Month events were cancelled.

Continue reading

Eastbound via Tulsa, Memphis and Montgomery.

From the sunlit interior of T2, I am taking in the view of the serene lake here at our winter site in Estero, Florida. You’ll see part of the view below. We arrived here just before Thanksgiving and I am going to highlight three important stops along the 2,122-mile trip from Las Cruces, NM to Florida.

It was hard to leave New Mexico after six months because the place really touched our hearts. We’ve been blessed to have tripped on a rhythm that appears to be working with short bursts of long travel sandwiched between extended stays in a seasonally sunny and warm place. It’s what you may have heard me call “chasing 70 degrees”. In March 2020, we had booked a place in Estero, Florida thinking that we would be back at Koreshan State Park for our fifth season. And then COVID happened. While we had a place in Estero, the park was shuttered down and our beloved programs were cancelled – no cooking program for Peter and no special tours and Women’s History Month for Liz. The limited option we had was to be docents roving the historic settlement with no access to the historic buildings. However, then we learned that masks were not required for visitors to the park because Lee County has no mask-mandate. We decided it wasn’t safe or wise for us. We have become “those people” who won’t go outside our home without a mask and wear one any time – even when outdoors – if we are going to be within 6 to 8 feet of others. Period.

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The Tetons, a wildfire, and snow.

Our vacation destination, the Grand Tetons of Wyoming.

On August 27, we left Las Cruces for a vacation away from the triple-digit heat.  Our plan was to head north about 1,200 miles, landing in Kelly, Wyoming on Monday, August 31 and then head up to Bozeman, Montana to visit some friends, returning to Las Cruces by September 20.  Many of you already know of our three-decade-plus love affair with the Tetons and Moose, Wyoming.  It was there, at the Triangle X Ranch, where we would re-unite with our dear friends, wander on horseback through the Bridger-Teton National Forest, along the Snake River, and up to big aspen groves, repeatedly falling helplessly under the spell of the breathtaking natural beauty of the Grand Tetons.  The ranch was the place where, over the years, Peter and I made some of the most significant decisions of our lives, moved to a clarity that we found nowhere else. Continue reading

It may be 102, but it’s a dry heat…

Our site includes a cottonwood tree and lots of blessed shade. The sunscreen we put up helps to keep the sun off T2. I love the potted plants that Peter created which we enjoy both inside and outside.

Las Cruces, New Mexico is working out well for us after seven weeks.  With so much uncertainty in all of our lives these days, just being able to write that feels like a gift.  Top of mind for us is what we call our “COVID lives” and we are both healthy and hopeful even as the cases spike here in recent days.  Dona Ana county, where we are, has seen an increase in COVID infections. Here in our RV park, the owner came by on July 3 to remind us of the need to wear masks, and to socially distance as we used the laundry, the common areas or the bathhouse. Continue reading

Cross-country quarantine trip, part 2.

Here’s the route we ended up taking.

When we left Airstream in Jackson Center, Ohio on Sunday, May 10 we were aware that we would soon be leaving the eastern third of the country, excited to be heading straight west, to New Mexico.  We got onto I-70 and headed over the border into Indiana. As other full-timers have reported, the Indiana section of the interstate is in terrible condition, rough and uneven like a washboard.  I imagined that the inside of T2 would mimic the mayhem of Lucille Ball’s experience from the classic on-the-road cult 1954 movie, The Long, Long Trailer.  Fortunately, there were no boulders stored under the couch to roll around, as in Lucy’s escapade.  The by-pass around Indianapolis on I-465 was eerily jammed with tractor-trailers, a scene unlike any we had witnessed since leaving Florida. Continue reading

Six states and our mobile COVID 19 quarantine unit

Exhilaration being on the road again, here heading north on I-75 in Florida.

A good journalist once said that when telling a story, focus on the personal stuff if you want to engage your reader.  After our first week on the road, here’s some of our personal shutdown story.  To re-cap, we left Estero, Florida on May 3 because we had a specific place to go (first Airstream in Ohio, then New Mexico) and felt we could safely travel there.  The day we left we were completely giddy with the sense of freedom and the joyful change of scenery.  Traffic was very light on I-75 north and we sailed along to our first night outside of Gainesville, Florida.  We reserved at a KOA and upon arrival, were met at our truck by the host who was wearing a face mask and gloves.  He led us to our site in his golf cart.  He did something we’ve never seen before: he wiped down our water, and electric connections at the site.  It was an immediate confidence booster.  He said the restrooms were open though we didn’t plan to use them.  The great curiousity in the campground was the one large family with six kids, two dogs and an inflatable wading pool who were in a tent set up near the restrooms.  Aside from that, everyone else was in an RV or trailer.  This random tent siting would turn out to be a complete anomaly in the nights ahead.  Every other place would have a ban on tents. Continue reading

Our lessons of grace in the shutdown

The past two weeks of the pandemic shutdown in Estero have brought some new challenges, surprises, and accommodations.  First, the challenges.  Last time I mentioned the record-breaking heat that we were experiencing the week of April 13. We wanted to have our air-conditioner checked because the heat was really oppressive and we were running it nearly all day and into the night.  We had made an appointment months ago for our annual Airstream service, but that was off since the factory in Ohio was on shutdown. Continue reading