First I’d like to acknowledge those folks that have been following my travels via this blog. I truly appreciate your enthusiasm and your well wishes. I want all those people to know that my ankle is 85% healed and the RV is in good working order. We thrived and survived!
This is my final installment from our six-week foray into the super chill experiment with life on the road alone, together. Of course we weren’t really alone. Along with the time spent with family and friends, we also met lots and lots of story-worthy people on our travels. We had some sweet campmates, and then there were the people that we met in the course of a day - some were good samaritans and some were just standing on the street waiting for us to say hello.
I was so moved by the candor with which some of these stories were told, I started making notes. This is an account of the folks that I remembered to document.
First there was Kurt and Brenda who were camped next to us at the River Trail Crossing campground in beautiful Butler, Ohio. After I took them up on an offer to join them around the fire, Kurt went off to help my sweetheart fix the hot water in Rigsby, our RV. I sat and chatted with Brenda and took full opportunity to pet her chubby little chihuahua, Queenie. Remember, this is my first visit to a Red state since tRump was in office and I was a little shy about who I might be talking to. Brenda shared that she loves reading, that she’ll read pretty much anything - fiction, nonfiction - you name it. So I asked what she’d read recently and she said a James Patterson novel. Hmm, ok, and what non fiction have you read that you loved recently? Becoming by Michelle Obama, she’d read it three times in a row! I wasn’t expecting that. It became clear that it wasn’t the politics that Brenda resonated with, it was purely admiration and connection. I have major renewed admiration for my Forever First Lady.
In Ouray, Colorado, we met Steve. I guess he was outside taking a smoke break and quickly ascertained that we were not from there. He advised us to visit the town historical museum, which had been the town hospital where he’d been born. He proceeded to tell us all about Ouray, and all about himself. He’d become a miner at 19 earning $3000 a week in the 70’s. Then he went to Reno and worked the gambling floor for thirty years, where he became a raving alcoholic. He finally got clean after losing his also alcoholic girlfriend to a drunken death. He came back home to Ouray and is living with his mom. She must be a saint - she’s the mother to 12 children.
I can’t not tell the story of our rescue couple, Stef and John. It could be enough to tell you that they picked us up when Rigsby broke down, took us into town to a mechanic, found a hotel for us, and after lunch the next day, spent the afternoon showing us all the beauty of Pagosa Springs. But, that would be our story. Their story is that they moved to Santa Fe from Seattle, then just recently relocated to Pagosa Springs. John has a severe case of Lyme and lost thirty pounds over the pandemic. He thought he was on the way out until he was FINALLY diagnosed with Lyme. He has a very good, well-off friend who gave him a home version of a Hyperbaric chamber - I mean, that is a GOOD friend! My favorite thing about them was when they shared that they used to have a band, and played me a few songs - think B52’s. I NEVER would’ve imagined these two mild mannered retirees were rockstars! My mind was blown.
Then there was the Scottish art store owner, also in Ouray, who’s best friend is from Vermont. He told us about a customer who came into the store and mentioned that he was from Killington, Vermont. “Ach”, he says, “do you happen to know Preston So and So?” “Ha!” replies the customer “he's my brother!” That’s just so Vermont, I had to share.
Next, meet Manny and Hector, the 14 and 15 year old brothers from Utah, who we joined for a refreshing swim in the Oliver reservoir. They were enthusiastically inquisitive and pummeled us with questions. What are your names, where are you from, how old are you? I doubted that they would have heard of Vermont, so I told them it was north of New York. Oooo, New York?! They wanted to know if I’d been there and when I said yes, they wanted to know if I’d been to the M&M store. Like, obviously.
At that same campground, we camped next to Walter. First, let’s get a mental picture of Walter - he’s a tall, gray, hairy man who stood talking to us wearing old jeans, bright red worn sneakers with his very long beard tucked into the neck of his threadbare Mickey Mouse t-shirt. Walter could’ve been in Nomadland -he’s been in his RV for four years. He told us that he’d lost his house in a divorce and decided to just buy an RV. He’s been traveling the country with his 25 year old autistic son, who plays a mean ukulele. While he checked the pressure for and pumped up all six of our tires, Walter shared that the best place to camp for free in the winter is the desert. Noted for future trips.
I had just walked into the water at the clothing optional Orvis Hot Springs when I met Elisabeth Lava. She seemed approachable to me in that she was alone and...wearing a bathing suit. I wound up talking with many naked people on the visit to the springs, but it was nice that my very first person was dressed. We quickly dove into our stories and she shared that she’s a newly minted author. She told me about the subject of her book, a spiritual emergency and finding greater purpose to arrive at a sense of wholeness. She was lovely and as I’ve told you here before, she directed us to the most stunningly beautiful campsite of our trip. Elisabeth was open and kind and honest. She made a very positive impression on both of us.
Linda May and Frank and most importantly, Isabella camped across from us at Stone State Park outside of Sioux City, Iowa. I’m a true dog person and I find that some dogs just must be petted. Isabella was one such pooch. While she sat on my lap, I talked to her people and I learned about their lives, their blended family and what a toy hauler is. Frank has worked for the last 20 years in the liquid feed business. This is a process where by-products from canola oil and corn oil are sprayed on grains to make it sweeter and more nutritious to cattle. I’m a believer in grass fed beef, but I demurred from engaging in that conversation. They generously shared their firewood with us that night and we enjoyed a delightful fireside chat talking late into the night.
That’s pretty much it. As you know, I like to tell stories and I could go on and on, but those are the stories about the people who shared time with us. Right along with all the scenic gorgeousity that our trip offered, the people made it memorable.