Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Early Days on the Road

The past couple of weeks have been pretty intense.  I apologize for my absence from the blog - at first I was just busy with figuring out life on the road.  Then I got sick, so for the past week I've been laying super low.  But since my second visit to the doctor where I got the cough syrup with codeine, which is now allowing me to get some sleep, I'm feeling ready to begin piecing together how I got here.  It's important to me, not only to update all my adoring fans, but also for me to take time to reflect.  I get so busy just doing that I'm not always conscious of how I'm feeling...which is probably how I got sick in the first place.

I extended my stay in Texas due to the hefty gravitational pull I mentioned in my last post.  I'm super happy with that choice - I made it because of how I felt about the place and the people, and I was rewarded with multiple days filled with fun and connections with new people.  And this is where I experienced the first sign that Texas did not want me to leave.

On Saturday the 20th, I had no plans except to go watch a band play that night.  I asked around about flying, but the weather wasn't great for it, and Tracy's son Dakota had invited me to go tubing with him, his brother/sister/cousin/various significant others.  This sounded like a fun & relaxing way to spend the day, so I tagged along.  I put my phone & clothes in my dry bag, which I'd intended to clip to the handle of my tube.  But when someone suggested I just throw it in the cooler, that seemed much easier.  We couldn't get the cooler closed with the bag sealed, so we left it open...which was fine right up until we had to get the cooler out of the river at the end.  My dry bag became just a regular bag, all too happy to let the river in and let my phone go swimming.  

As Dakota said, luckily I was in a small town and everyone has everyone else's number anyway.  From my perspective, though, this just meant that I couldn't leave that small town.  My phone is my means of contact with the outside world in so many ways - it's my means of navigation, my camera, my phone of course, my Facebook update system - basically, my phone is everything to me while I'm on the road.  So Texas had conspired to create a situation where I was perfectly fine and well taken care long as I stayed in Texas. 

Well, I made it to see the band play with the use of good old fashioned directions WRITTEN ON A PIECE OF PAPER.  I know - crazy right?!  It actually worked!  I had a lovely time being courted by all of Cistern, TX's most eligible bachelors and the bartender told me I should come back any time - she was having a grand old time observing all the activity.  The next day I got to hang out with a new friend and make some more new ones, drinking some good beer & putting together some serious puzzles at the Cistern Schoolhouse. Well, OK I mostly watched the puzzles get put together.

I got the new phone on Monday but by the time I had everything installed and working it was too late to leave (nicely played, Texas) so I had one last night in town.  As hard as it was, I did actually leave Schulenburg on Tuesday, June 16th.  I'm so glad I got to stay there as long as I did, but as fun as it was, I was in a holding pattern and I was starting to really feel a need to make some progress toward my goals.

The first night on the road was pretty uneventful, but I woke up the next morning to a bunch of storms all around me.  Although it wasn't currently raining where I was, I had driven through some rain on the way to Tracy's and it wasn't fun, so I decided to stay put in Sanger, TX for another night and move on in better weather.  I still think this was the right decision, but that night was pretty scary.  Hard to tell how scared I should have been vs. how much I was just plain freaking myself out because I was alone and inexperienced...but I was skeered.  I hadn't really looked at the forecast, but around 11:15pm I did check it and saw that we were looking at 30mph winds, gusting to 50+.  My little trailer was definitely a-rockin'.  I didn't know what I should do - I tried to look at things logically and I figured, at the very least, I would not be able to sleep with the trailer rocking like that, so maybe I should get a hotel room. The closest hotel was about 12 miles away, though, and with 50mph winds I thought I proabably shouldn't be out driving.  So I was back to square one, spending the night in the trailer.  I looked around outside and saw that there were quite a few others spending the night where I was, so I told myself it must be safe.  My next door neighbors had a fine time getting their awning in, but not until it got so loud that it scared the crap out of me - I was so relieved to finally realize it was their awning I was hearing and not just the angry storm!  I passed the next couple of hours coloring in my coloring book (see pic), watching movies, meditating, basically anything I could think of to take my mind off the question of whether my trailer was going to topple over with me in it.  And sometime after 130am I fell alseep, and woke up to what amounted to paradise for me.  And life was good.  
Best coloring book ever!

Paradise, relatively speaking

On Thursday 6/18 I high-tailed it out of Texas, and things were going great - for a few miles.  I ended up taking a long lunch in Ardmore, OK while I waited for the roads to reopen.  That's right, not road. Roads.  Plural.  Including the INTERSTATE.  Apparently, Oklahoma was in cahoots with Texas and some boulders had fallen into the middle of the interstate, forcing it closed.  Local news story.  I'd thought, hey, no big deal, I'll take the US Route.  A little slower but just generally more interesting anyway...but that US Route was closed due to recent flooding in the area.  I literally could not get away from Texas.  My TX friends reiterated that I was welcome to turn around and come back, but I persevered and in a couple hours I was back on the road.  I was rewarded with this beautiful sunset:
#‎nofilter‬ somewhere in Oklahoma

That Friday I drove from OK to KS.  Pretty boring drive, until I stopped for lunch at a rest stop.  As I was walking back to the car from the restrooms I noticed one of the trailer's hub caps was missing...on closer inspection, so was the wheel bearing cap.  Now, when I say lunch, I mean my lunch...which is a little later than normal people eat lunch because I don't like to wake up as early as normal people.  So by the time I noticed this little issue, it was 330pm on a Friday, and I was about 20 miles North of Salina, KS...not exactly a metropolis but the last "city-ish" place I was going to see for the rest of that day.  So after hurriedly texting a pic to my buddy Jim to confirm exactly how much of an emergency this was, I decided to turn around and plead with a local mechanic to help me out.  Dan Peery of Peery's Auto ended up staying past closing on a Friday to fix me up and get me on the road.  He replaced the bearing on that wheel and eyeballed the rest of them.  In the meantime I got to meet some of the local cast of characters.  All very nice guys who were astounded to see me traveling alone, and even more shocked to learn that I don't "pack a piece".  This wound up being an interesting stop and I was just happy I didn't have to hang around town until Monday morning.  So, back on my way I ended up in Wellington, KS for the night.  
Something doesn't look quite right here...

But it's all going to be fine.

Neither Wellington, KS, nor Grand Island, NE were particularly memorable stops for me, but on Saturday 6/20 I got to drive through the Pine Ridge region of Nebraska, and I learned that gorgeous!  The plains were pretty boring - just miles of the same flat land, but the Pine Ridge region had hills and cliffs and lakes, and I was forced to leave the interstate and drive northward on US routes towards Mt Rushmore, so I got to pull over and take pictures whenever I wanted.  It was awesome.

It was also on Saturday that I passed a sign for Carhenge in Alliance, NE.  I wasn't sure exactly what that was, but it wasn't too far off the main road so I figured I owed it to myself to stop...especially since I hadn't stopped for the World's Largest Porch Swing or any other such attractions.  It was pretty cool.  Apparently this guy conceived the idea and his family helped build it for a family reunion.  At first the town was against it, but once they realized it drew in a bunch of tourists with money to spend, they came around.  It's a free attraction and worth the stop if you're passing through.

...and yet another sign from Texas
After checking out Carhenge, I drove another hour & a half north to spend the night in Chadron, NE.  The following morning I would drive up into South Dakota to my base camp near the Badlands.

To be continued...

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