summer is done

It’s time to move on.

I could ramble on about summer vacation memories for a long time, but I’d rather not.  Don’t want to be that online version of the friend who drags out their slides and shows you a million pictures every time you come for a visit.

So here are a few last thoughts that float in my head…

Some things are worth driving across country and back again to experience, like our steak dinner at the Cavalryman in Laramie, Wyoming.  Several years ago we celebrated a son’s graduation there, and it was just as spectacular this time around.

I love places with odd names… Coffee Pot Flat, Oregon… Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  I would go there just because of the name.  We did.

Kansas gets a bad rap for being flat and boring.  Kansas is beautiful in June.

I love Cracker Barrel restaurants with my whole heart.  And I’m pretty sure they feel the same way about me after I leave their gift shop with what’s left of my debit card.

You find the most interesting things at rest stops… like a dinosaur skeleton in Cheyenne, Wyoming and the Old Town Museum in Burlington, Colorado.

It’s the simple, the old and nature that gets me every time… the deserted motel in Memphis, abundant crepe myrtle and Dot’s Diner in New Orleans, mountains near Wells, Nevada and the Great Smoky Mountains as we crossed over from Tennessee to Cherokee, North Carolina.

Over the years, I’ve purchased several things online from the Scottish Tartan Museum in Franklin, North Carolina.  I’ve always wanted to go there.  And we did.  And it was awesome.  And it was fun to see that Jamison Jewelers sign next door… my maiden name… thinking of my dad… always.

Driving thru big cities makes me crazy.  It was white knuckles all the way and I was just the passenger!  As a result of my little oddity I haven’t a single picture of the Houston area as we rolled thru on I-10.  And now I wonder how our good mechanic friends in Orange, Texas made it thru Hurricane Harvey.  How quickly things change.

God Bless Texas.

The scenery was beautiful, but it was the people, experiences and time with family that mattered most.  I’m not surprised at the stories we hear of stranger helping stranger after Harvey.  Because those are the people we met all across the country.

And lastly, I’m pretty proud of my husband and me.  We made it all the way over and all the way back.  We’re not spring chickens, so I’ve been told.

I think we did pretty good.

And I would do it again.




davy crockett, judge roy bean and grace in between…

I grew up watching the adventures of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone on TV.  My mother made me wear dresses, but my heart longed for a coonskin cap and buckskin jacket.

I was happy to learn both men weren’t just television caricatures, but real people who participated in the building of America.  In my child’s mind I saw them forever tracking bear through the woods and saving pioneers in distress.  As time went on I was a little less enchanted to learn Davy also wore normal clothing of the day, was a politician and had actually served in the United States congress.

Still, he had done adventurous things and visiting the Alamo, where Davy took his last breath, had always been on my ‘to do’ list.  It was the first major stop on our summer trip.

Along the way to the Alamo, we stopped in Pecos, Texas, where I learned more about Judge Roy Bean.  The “Hanging Judge”.  I’ve seen movies about the Judge, thought him an unappealing character and, until recently, a fictitious one.  But nope, he was really real.

And he wasn’t the “hanging judge”.  In fact, some say he never hanged anyone.  He was a heavy drinker,  had several children and abandoned them, he spent time in jail, and had a permanent rope burn on his neck when someone tried to hang him.  In his early days, it’s said, he sold firewood and milk for a living… milk he watered down so he could make a few more bucks.

He actually wasn’t a real judge, but as a convenience was named a Justice of the Peace so Texas Rangers had somewhere to process prisoners in that barren, wide open country.  On a more positive note, a couple of accounts say he was generous to folks down on their luck and that he kept the local schoolhouse supplied with firewood all winter long.

Maybe he felt guilty about selling all that watered down milk?

Of course, all we have are stories of either man.  Recently I read that even Davy Crockett’s death is controversial.  Apparently there were differing recollections.

Guess you had to be there to really know.

A person from my own life, who I saw as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone rolled into one, was my grandfather.

He had tattoos.

I loved them, but he typically covered them with long sleeves.  Except for the tiny horse shoe on the crook of his hand where thumb meets forefinger.

Papa and Me

When I was older he explained that they reminded him of a time when liquor was the love of his life… before God, before family… liquor first.  He told me of the day my dad drove him to the San Francisco morgue to identify one of his older brothers.  A brother he grew up with and loved dearly.  An alcoholic brother who died lost and alone.

Papa’s revelations about his life didn’t dampen my respect.  I spent time with him.  I saw how he behaved in good times and in tough situations.  I loved his honesty and desire to help others.  And yet, I’m sure there were some who had a completely different view of him… the ones who knew the dark side, the drunk side.

His tattoos reminded him he would be remembered that way… by some people… forever.

In today’s mixed up world where folks seem to trade truth for the gospel according to Facebook or Twitter, I can imagine Davy being villanized for being a congressman, Roy being raised to hero status and Papa’s character annihilated.

I loved our time in Texas.  As I considered how immense the area, how lonely it must have been without modern communication, I felt a little more compassion for the Judge.

Parked in front of the saddlery in Pecos, I could envision horses and wagons passing by on a dusty road.

Walking through The Alamo, I imagined that small band of Texans trying to hold on against the odds.  I read the stories of others who fought alongside Davy and saw his rifle on display.  In that place, the childhood hero became a little more human.

And my grandfather’s tattoos remind me of the responsibility of sharing story and sharing it right.  We tell stories in a tweet, a sentence, a blog post or a face to face interaction.

I’m thankful for Papa’s legacy.  He was willing to share his story of much grace received.  And he lived out a story of much grace given.

P.S.  I still think a coonskin cap and buckskin jacket would be cool…



course correction, one step at a time…

Three things stood out in my thoughts this week:

  1. Amazement that my husband and I celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary –
  2. A memory from our summer road trip in which I considered being dropped off at the nearest airport because I didn’t want to ride with him anymore –
  3. And a sentence I read in a book yesterday which filled me with peace and hope.

When it comes to 48 years of marriage, it can’t be summed up in a couple short paragraphs.  I can say it has not been an easy, romantic story… although there was some of that.  I can’t say we never let the sun set on our anger… because there was some of that too.

I can say we are not quitters.  We are hard workers and resilient.  Sometimes we look like two bulls in one china shop, competing to make the biggest mess.  Other times we walk in sync on common ground.

Speaking for myself, when I remember that I am accountable to God alone, and it’s not my job to please the entire universe, I find it easier to stay on that common ground path.  Fearing what others think keeps me from what I need to do, being who I’m meant to be and it’s definitely an unwelcome third-party to a marriage.

Now, that road trip story.  Because it’s a kind of microcosm of us.

We left Price, Utah early in the morning, enthusiastic, ready to roll.  The red rock cliffs and geologic formations were breathtaking.

Somewhere around Farmington, New Mexico, things bogged down.  For sure we were tired.  Problems during the four previous days had cost us time and money.  Our destination was Roswell, but I was thinking Albuquerque would be a good stopping point for the night.

Yea, well, he didn’t think so.  He wanted to push on into the night.  He wanted to make up time.  And I began to wonder…. WHY?   We’re on a road trip to see America.  We had thousands of miles to go.  I began to envision long slogs of driving all day, all night and not doing anything fun.  I let that marinate in my very tired, unhappy mind.

I’m not proud of it, but I was getting a little whiny as we drove.  As the miles passed, I googled where Albuquerque’s airport was in relation to us.  Fortunately, before I seriously considered a reservation for one, he announced we’d look for a place as we got closer in.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t a good plan.  As traffic picked up, we realized it was Friday of Memorial Day weekend.  Everyone in the world was out for the big kick-off to summer with campers, RVs and boat trailers.  They would be looking for the same spot we hoped to find.

It took a couple of fruitless stops and several phone calls, but Doug found us a place… just a “few” miles south of Albuquerque.  But those few miles turned into about 50.  And instead of being on Highway 285 toward Roswell, we were on I-25 headed to El Paso.  When we turned off the highway at the entrance to the RV park and HORSE MOTEL (yes, horse motel), it felt like we’d sunk to a new low.

It was almost dark, so it wasn’t until morning that I realized how pretty and peaceful the area was.  And that I’d actually slept well that night.  The Kiva RV Park and Horse Motel, with large barn and corral, actually served a great need for folks who transport horses.  Each camp site was lined with fruit trees and campers were invited to enjoy whatever was on them.  The restrooms and showers were sparkly clean, our hosts were friendly and birds were twittering (non-political tweets) everywhere.  It was an oasis in a big area of not much.  I felt like I’d stepped into the pages of Lonesome Dove.  And best of all, I didn’t have to go to El Paso.  (Not that I have anything against El Paso.)  Just a few miles down the road was Highway 380, which would take us straight to Roswell.

Highway 380 was great.  And scenic.  About halfway to Roswell, we came upon the town of Carrizozo.  A tiny town of less than a thousand people, it had an amazing museum, filled with New Mexico history.  I had no idea there were so many designs of barbed wire.  Now I know… and whose ranch it came from.  Plus, at the restaurant next door I had the best taco salad of my life.


A couple of hours later we were in Roswell.  It had been a great day full of unexpected sights and interesting people.  We would have missed it if we’d stuck to our original plan.  Well, um, if we’d had one.

On a small-scale, that day felt like the past 48 years.  Sometimes we have a great plan, sometimes not so much.  Sometimes we have a big issue to face, sometimes it’s just a trip to Costco.  We hit bumps in the road and toss around ideas.  Sometimes good and sometimes not.  But we keep moving forward.  Sometimes agonizingly slow, but we’re moving.  And eventually we get to where we need to go.

I’ve been reading Louie Giglio’s newest book Goliath Must Fall , in which he talks about the things that hold us back – – fear, rejection, addiction, anger and even comfort.  I often hesitate because I want a clearer picture of the outcome.  That’s not always bad, but too many hesitations can be paralyzing.  Sometimes you must begin with what you know and trust the picture will become clear the closer you get.

Louie wrote, “Yet if you move in faith, God will always breathe life on your journey.”

I like that.

He’s been breathing life on our journey for 48 years, from stumbling through the hard stuff to finding a place to park our trailer for the night.

One day, one breath at a time.



rivers of story

We remember the Alamo and read about Gettysburg.  And who doesn’t know about the Titanic, or has seen the movie?

But do you remember the Sultana?  Probably not.

I heard the story of the Sultana steamboat while cruising the Mississippi River at Memphis.


Mississippi River, Memphis, Tennessee


April 27, 1865, the Sultana exploded a few miles up river from Memphis.  A boat that was designed to hold 376 passengers, was loaded with 2,155.  The majority of passengers were Union soldiers.  Recently released prisoners of war, they’d been waiting at a parole camp in Vicksburg for a way home.

1,192 died either in the explosion, of hypothermia or drowning.

President Lincoln had been assassinated the day before, so news of the Sultana didn’t make it very far.  Horrific loss of life.  All for a few bucks.

No one will ever know the story each soldier carried within themselves.


We traveled alongside and over many rivers this summer.

The Pecos,  the San Antonio, and the Cumberland Rivers.  The Green and the White Rivers.  And many more.

It occurred to me too late to photograph them.  Honestly… we parked at the KOA campground in San Antonio for two days and never once did I think to take a picture of the lazy river alongside us.

We crossed the Mississippi River several times, in several states, going east and going west.  Big river.


Mississippi River, East St. Louis, Illinois


Mississippi River, Memphis


Mississippi River, looking toward West Memphis, Arkansas

A few days before we cruised the Mississippi at Memphis, we boarded the Steamboat Natchez in New Orleans.  There was a narrator sharing history of the river, but I was too distracted to listen.  In fact, I was downright uncomfortable to be cruising on a river that is higher than the buildings on land.


Mississippi River at New Orleans

The day was grey and my pictures poor quality… but that city is below the river!  It felt like I was bobbing on a giant Weeble, and we might roll off the edge of the riverbank into someone’s house.

My imagination runs overboard sometimes.


Missouri River at Boonville, Missouri


Missouri River, Earth City, Missouri


Ohio River, Louisville, Kentucky

My favorite river experience was at the Cape Fear in North Carolina.  Probably because that story included family we hadn’t seen in over a year and the best lunch ever at Howard’s Barbecue… right there on the river.

Hush puppies, pulled pork and sweet tea.  That’s all you need to know.


The rivers have stories because the people have stories.  And I guess that is what captivated me so about our trip…

…other people’s’ stories… the rest of the story… my own story.

These last couple weeks I’ve been working on quilts.  My mom unearthed some quilt tops her mother-in-law gave her a bazillion years ago.  Or maybe it was more like 70.  That’s still a long time.

I’m also repairing an old quilt my husband has had since he was a kid.

I’d love to know more about these women, what their lives were like and what they believed.  They didn’t leave much behind and few stories were passed along.  Now they’re gone.

And even though I knew my father well, I have so many questions.  I’d like the answers to a few more whys and hows.  I know he’d tell me, but he’s gone.

The years roll by like the rivers.  People come and go.  Good things happen.  Bad things happen.  And most of it gets stuffed away and forgotten.

What if we viewed each day of life, no matter how mundane, as a growing legacy? Something for future generations to learn from.  That life may not look or sound exciting today, but it just might hold the key to wisdom or inspiration for someone else down the line.

What if we found ways to tell our story… before it’s too late.

The river’s rollin’…



Coast fork of the Willamette River, Eugene, Oregon




knowing where you are, but maybe not…

We hadn’t planned on staying the night in Salt Lake City.


Of course, we also hadn’t planned on loosing time to an oil leak in the truck and a flat tire on the trailer.  We were two days behind on our journey and Doug wanted to make that up.

But we needed fuel.

And we needed food.

Traffic picked up as we left the salt flats behind and skirted around the city.  The sky had changed to an odd color.  The wind began to rock our trailer.

We took an exit which promised a truck stop, but there was none.  Doug drove in frustration as I searched maps for said truck stop, for food and maybe even a place to stay for the night.  Then that strange phenomena kicked in… the one where we look at one another, clearly speaking English, but it sounds more like Swahili.

Fatigue, hunger, driving through big cities, seemed to bring this out.  He would resort to grumpy silence and I to hand signals.  So how does a driver, who is driving, see hand signals on the passenger side?  He doesn’t.  Such is the plight of a woman who speaks with her hands when the words of her mouth aren’t heard.

After an hour of lost-ness, the fuel tank was filled, but we were still hungry.

And by the way, with three electronic devices on board and every map program you could possibly want, I know we weren’t lost.  We knew exactly where we were.  We just didn’t know what to do about it.  And our English language speaking skills still hadn’t returned.

With the wind picking up and rain coming down, Google found us an RV park just three short turns away.  An hour later we were hooked up to power and water, fed up (with actual food) and the rain had stopped.

To be honest though, I was fed up with our grand trip as well.  And we weren’t even a full week into it.  This was hard work, not a relaxing vacation.  I knew I’d wanted this trip, but was regretting our method of doing it.

Rather than fall further down the rabbit hole of wondering, I joined Doug on a walk around the place.

The park was quite lovely, actually.  Swimming pool, laundry, TV/game room, tree-lined parking spaces and a night watchman.  It was the only place we stayed with a night watchman.  And as we walked, Mr. Watchman pulled up in his golf cart.  It was starting to get dark and he was there to lock up the pool.

I sat on a bench as Doug and Mr. W began to chat, then noticed an older man get out the other side of the cart.

He was headed straight for me.  That’s the way it is.  Old people, kids, dogs (sorry, not really a dog person) and any, shall we say, “unique” type person… it’s like I’m a magnet.

And I did not want to talk to him.

He looked a lot like my dad.  Thin and bent over, his walk was unsteady.  His speech was slow and difficult.  And by now he was seated next to me.  Right next to me.

I don’t remember what we were talking about, but something reminded me of Washington D.C.  When I mentioned it he lit right up.  He had lived in D.C. for many years.  He had been a park ranger.  A mounted park ranger.  But there’d been an accident.  He’d been dragged by a horse.  And then, as he said, “I couldn’t think or talk so good”.

I learned his son brought him to live there.  His son is a good man.  He loves to ride at night with his son.  And it’s a good thing it was getting dark because I was a little teary eyed.

I was talking to this man, but couldn’t stop seeing my dad.  You can’t spend the last days of life with someone and not be affected.  You have to do things you don’t want to, but you must.  You see things you don’t want to see, but there’s no choice.  And you hear words that pierce your heart.

Then, what do you do with all that?

Now in hindsight, I see our long summer journey was part trial & error, part great adventure, part family time and part of my grieving.  It was feeling lost, yet completely at home.  It was frustration when words and gestures missed their mark, but understanding was still found.

Knowing where you are is a good thing.  Necessary, actually.  But not knowing what to say, where to go, what to do next… isn’t a bad thing.  Sometimes it just means you need to wait a little longer, quit waving your arms so wildly, or maybe you just need to sit on a bench and have a conversation with a complete stranger.

I’ve begun looking through old pictures finally.  It’s fun to remember.  It’s good to see Dad as he was when he wasn’t suffering.  It’s good to remember being his daughter instead of his caretaker.

We walk along the path, help each other on the way, preparing to leave the old behind and step into the new….

… unless you’re the night watchman.  You and your dad can just ride your golf cart.


Bob and Brooke

Dad and I at Santa Cruz, California, 1956

the familiar place i’d never been…

Even though I studied geography in school like any other kid, and even though I have a quilted map of the United States of America hanging on the wall above my sewing machine (doesn’t everyone?)I always thought of Indiana as a way, way, way, north state.

It felt odd to leave Kentucky (to me, a way, way, way south state), cross the Ohio River and suddenly be in Indiana.




But the oddest thing was how excited I felt as we entered Harrison County.  Why should I care about Harrison County?

When I saw the highway exit to Palmyra, that’s when I grabbed my phone and logged into my ancestry account.

My dad’s grandfather, Lewis Jamison, was born in Palmyra in 1856.  He married and settled in Marion, Illinois, where my grandfather was born.  At some point he moved to Seattle, Washington, where he lived out his final days with my grandparents, Albert and Vera.  He died in 1927, just before my dad’s 2nd birthday.  My dad wouldn’t have had any memory of his grandfather, but undoubtedly Lewis held my infant dad in his arms and contemplated the unfolding of his legacy… which was something his father, Jesse, didn’t get to do.

Jesse Jamison was also born in Palmyra, Indiana, in 1827.  He was the oldest of eight brothers and several sisters.  All eight brothers enlisted in the union army during the Civil War.  Why would all these brothers, from a way, way, way north state, risk their lives and volunteer?  I didn’t think Indiana was touched by the war.

I was about to learn different.

Doug exited the highway shortly after that Palmyra sign, in the town of Corydon.  We didn’t even bother to look for an RV park… just pulled into Super 8, checked in, then walked to the local Cracker Barrel for dinner.  Wind and rain had taken their toll on that leg of our journey.

There was a magazine in our room, which may or may not have fallen into my tote bag, published by the local chamber of commerce.  Filled with area highlights, I learned there was a memorial park commemorating the Battle of Corydon.  It was the one and only battle to take place in the state and sadly for Corydon, the confederates won the day.

After driving so many miles this summer, seeing how interconnected these states are by water ways and topography, knowing how the intensity of politics in our day was just as intense in their’s… I understood a little better why eight brothers would feel compelled to enlist in the army.

Jesse was a blacksmith, a couple were carpenters and the rest of the brothers were farmers.  I imagined their familiarity with these farms, rivers and creeks that I was seeing for the first time.  I could grasp their concern for family, land and livelihood.



I pictured Jesse saying goodbye to his wife, daughters, and son Lewis.  He likely believed he’d return.  They would pick up where they left off.

But he didn’t come back.

Lewis was 7 years old when Jesse died in Mississippi of a massive infection.  An infection that could easily be treated today.  That same year, 1863, Jesse’s younger brother Lewis, died on the first day of battle at the Siege of Vicksburg.  He and Jesse are both buried in Mississippi.  And since Jesse named his only son ‘Lewis’, I am guessing he and this particular brother must have been close.  But that’s just me… guessing.

There’s a record of Lewis’ mother receiving a widow’s pension.  And as compensation for the loss of their father, Lewis and his sisters each received $2 per month until age 16… a sad replacement.

Lewis grew up to be a farmer like many of his uncles.  Perhaps they told him stories about his dad.  Perhaps they tried to fill the gap.  I like to think they did.

The next morning Doug and I drove passed farms and trees that existed way back then.  It felt comfortable and comforting.  I liked thinking about these people I came from.  Bits and pieces of their lives flowed forward to future generations.  Just like bits and pieces of me flow on to grandchildren I’ve yet to meet.

And I wonder, what will they see when they look back?
















my favorite day

We spent eleven full days visiting our son and his family in North Carolina.  Any one of those days could easily be considered a favorite.  We’re not hard to please… just sitting around drinking coffee qualifies.  Did the occasional afternoon nap qualify?  Yes.  Yes it did.

Fortunately we share a fondness for haunting antique shops, good conversation, soaking up history and eating good food.  Giving us a rest from our long trek east, David chauffeured us everywhere.  And Kelly cooked her heart out.  She is clearly the best macaroon baker east of the Mississippi… likely the west too.

There is one day, however, that ranked as my favorite of our summer trip.

Wilmington is our usual coastal destination, with a stop for food at the Fish House.  This time David wanted to check out Fort Fisher.  His friends camp there and had recommended it as a great place to take the family.  Just a bit farther down the coast, we added it to the day.

During the Civil War, Fort Fisher was a confederate outpost which kept the port of Wilmington open to blockade runners.  It eventually became the last supply route open for Robert E. Lee and his troops.  On December 24, 1864, a massive federal amphibious assault on the fort began.  And on January 15, 1865, Fort Fisher fell to the union army.

There is little left of the fort today.  And the beauty of the coast line, marshland grasses, trees and flowers belies what happened there over 140 years ago.  We walked the raised sidewalk, read the story of the fort posted along the way and snapped pictures.  I felt the same quiet reverence I’d experienced at Gettysburg, Antietam, Pearl Harbor… the day my father died.

Battle over.  Peace has come.


At six years old, Nickson hopped, skipped, and made sounds that any six-year-old would make… until David spoke up, calm but firm…

… “Nickson.  Be respectful.  People died here”… , words that didn’t surprise me coming from an army veteran who’s seen the sacrifice of war first hand.  He explained some of what happened at the fort, pointed out areas along the path, pictures… all the while demonstrating respect to the generation he’s raising.

On any other day his words could easily be,

…be respectful, someone made that for you

…be respectful, someone paved the way for you

…be respectful, someone taught you

…be respectful, someone tried their best to love you

The list could go on…

Just. be. respectful.

It’s a favorite moment to watch a son teach the next generation.

So our time at the North Carolina coast moved right along.  We walked on the beach, splashed in the waves, lunched at the Fish House and did our best to hit as many antique stores as our tired feet would allow.

Then David drove us home.

Nickson fell asleep.

So did I.

And I respectfully submit, that was my favorite day.






good people

At a stop light in Corydon, Indiana, a young man jumps out of his pick-up truck and runs behind ours.  Before we can even think what’s happening… “your gas cap was off”, he yells with a smile and thumbs up as he jumps back into his truck…

Young people learning summer jobs at the KOA campground in WaKeeney, Kansas… guiding campers into their spaces, maintaining the grounds, answering phones, learning the ropes of the office, and preparing ice cream sundaes in the evening.  It reminded me of my own teenage summers, the jobs I did and the work ethic modeled.  It shaped the rest of my life…

And the bus driver in Memphis, Tennessee, on a quiet Sunday morning, who gave us the run down on where to go and where to eat.

“But where do you eat?”, Doug asked.  Gus’s Chicken.  It may not look impressive, but inside was the best fried chicken I have ever eaten.  Ever… image


I love to remember these people.  I must remember.  Because truth is, we’ve only been home two weeks and it’s slipping away from me.

My mind is fogged with the everyday-ness of life.  Bills to pay, groceries to buy.  Phone calls, appointments, undone projects, and the TV news.  It overwhelms.

Life rolls on.  It always does.


So this may look a little crazy (nerd alert), but I actually sorted out all the receipts, leaflets, maps and advertisements picked up along the way.  In date order.  I just wanted to reassure myself that it really happened.  That I really did have that great meal in San Antonio. that conversation in New Orleans, and our bacon saved by that mechanic in Orange, Texas.  Yes.  Yes.  It happened.

I love thinking about the family we met at a bus stop in San Antonio.  The father approached Doug to thank him for his service.  (Doug’s ball cap gave him away)  The man was flanked by teenage sons.  His wife surrounded by smaller children, three of whom were adopted.  Turns out they were at the same campground as us.  Turns out camping is about the only way they can afford to travel together.  I shared the laundry room with father and sons later that day.  Piles of clothes and towels belonging to little brothers and sisters.  Turns out they were having fun.  They made the chore into an event.

We camped next to a fifth-wheel outside Roswell, New Mexico, containing a dad, a mom and three daughters.  They sold their home in Maine, and are taking one year to travel the USA.  Daughters are home schooled and dad does web design.  A very mobile lifestyle.  They were an encouragement to us after our rough start.  The first three months they were on the road, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.  But they kept going.  Things got better.  Keep going, they said.  We did.

There was the waitress in Price, Utah, upon hearing our tale of woe and flat tires, offered to drive us back up the road to the repair shop.  We thanked her and assured her we were well able to walk back and reclaim our ride.  When asked why we were traveling across the U.S., I told her “because we want to”.

She shook her head saying, “wow, guess it’s better late than never”.

Apparently, we looked especially old that day.

And by the way, there were people older than us on the road.


In New Orleans at the KOA campground, we met a large, multi-generation family group who joined us on the shuttle going downtown.  They camp there every year.  Why?  I do not know.  Other than eating beignets and drinking coffee at Cafe’ Du Monde, there is nothing about my New Orleans adventure I’d care to repeat… but that is another story.

The matriarch of this group, almost 90, was small and frail.  She applauded our cross-country trip, saying she had done it many times when younger.  Her love of travel seemed to have passed to her children.  They were kind. attentive and committed to getting her from point A to point B.  She climbed into the shuttle on her own, but returned later that day in a transport chair.  Soaked to the skin, as we all were by the afternoon rain storm, she was all smiles.  No complaining.  She’d had a great day.

Over the course of 39 days of travel, we met a small assortment of rude, entitled people.  Just normal life.

But they were far outnumbered by the spunky adventurers, the hard-working, the thoughtful.  They were overshadowed by those who enjoy the simple things, who are good to grandma and grandpa, who are busy walking out integrity for their children to follow after.

We even met a few who made space for us.  Space that wasn’t convenient…

Almost out of Texas, the oil pressure gauge was alternately dropping and spiking.  Doug pulled over to make some calls and found a garage in the town of Orange that would fit us in.

The owner, an older gentleman, listened to the symptoms, advised us he wasn’t a diesel mechanic, but suspected it might be a sensor.  While Doug dealt with that end of things, I sat in the small office chatting with the owner’s son, a man about 50 and the office manager.  He was wearing a bright pink t-shirt, emblazoned with local fire department logo.  The office had an odd smell of flowers, grease and cleaning solvent.  His Texas twang… I wish I could provide audio.

‘where y’all going’?

“where y’all from”?

“are y’all hungry, cause there’s a great steak place just around the corner”.

“I’m sure my daddy can get y’all fixed up in no time”.

“hey, we can run y’all to the restaurant if you’re hungry… no trouble”.

I wanted to ask him why he was wearing a pink t-shirt.  But Doug came back in and asked him if he was in the fire department instead.

No… he was just supporting breast cancer awareness because his mama died of it.

Then I saw the picture of mama, flanked by a bouquet of silk flowers and a scented candle… which explained the flowery mingling of oil and solvent.

He told me some about his mama, that she’d been his best friend and he truly missed her.  Every day he missed her.  I learned that he and his daddy had never been close until his mama died, but now they are best buds.

They decided they needed to do something special awhile back, so they flew to Las Vegas.  And it scared him to death.  He’d never flown before (nor since) and he was worried about “that 9-11 thing”, as if it had happened yesterday… and well, you know, “there’s lots of crazies out there”.

I felt honored that he shared so much. But then, maybe he tells every wandering traveler that story.  I’ll never know.

I do know they collectively turned a stressful day into a relatively pleasant time.  Eventually a new sensor was installed and we were on our way.  There were several mechanics working, other cars and trucks in the shop, but they stopped and got us on the road.  They made me feel like our problem was all that mattered for that bit of time.

It was a little tricky getting our truck and trailer out of there.  They offered to block the highway, shut down traffic.  But Doug had developed mad maneuvering skills and was working it out.

The entire shop stood outside trying to “help” with hand signals.  I’m sure it did not help, but they tried anyway.  They were still waving as we hit the road.

I felt like I’d just left Mayberry.

I agree with my friend in Orange… there are a lot of crazies out there.  But there are a lot more that aren’t.  In the meantime, I will do my best to hang on to these memories and hundreds more like them.

There’s still good out there.  I’m hanging on to that too.


WaKeeney, Kansas

at home wherever you roam

In spite of the fact I can hardly wait to go places and have new experiences… it is often done with much gritting of teeth and stifled discomfort.  Doesn’t make sense, does it?

I want to go, but I want to stay.  I want to experience new, but I love the familiar.  I want to see what’s around the bend, but at the end of the day I’d really like to relax in my comfy recliner.

During the planning of our cross-country trip, Doug and I considered staying in motels.  But a different bed every night wasn’t appealing.  That is how, after a long search, we ended up with a travel trailer.

The trailer isn’t the newest.  But it was clean, in good working order and fit the budget.  We filled it with our own “stuff” and made it a mini-home.  Never mind we hadn’t traveled in this manner before, we were sure this was the best choice.  It was going to be great!  Totally awesome…oh, yea!

First week on the road… I was sure I’d made the biggest mistake of my life.

It didn’t help that we had two trailer tire blowouts within the first three days… or that the water system, which was fine at the start, suddenly seemed to have issues.

The first few mornings, I awoke to find I’d become Gulliver.  Our lilliputian bed, toilet, sink and shower just didn’t cut it.  I have a mark on my right forearm from whacking it repeatedly against the cupboard on my side of the bed and a permanent sore spot on my left elbow from banging it into the shower caddy over and over and over again.

Loving fresh air as I do, I opened windows and all the roof hatch covers one morning to enjoy the breeze.  Unfortunately, I forgot to close the hatch in the bathroom.  Then… we drove through a wind storm.  Then… we ended up with permanent ventilation in the roof.

I can still hear our host, Mike, welcoming us to Sonora, Texas, … “it never rains here”, he says.

Just to be safe, Doug climbed up top and patched the hole as best he could.  And, of course, that night was the craziest, wildest, WIND-THUNDER-LIGHTENING-RAIN storm ever.

I also discovered how much I missed my quiet morning routine.  Because Doug doesn’t do quiet morning routine.  So I got up earlier.  That way I could at least get one cup of coffee in me and enjoy the peaceful, morning air for a few minutes.  And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Nobody is perfect.

And this may sound weird, but I was intimated by the toilet.  I was kind of afraid to use it.  Plus, being the detail oriented person I am, I was concerned about how full certain tanks might be, about the (hopefully remote) chance of overflow, and exactly how much fresh water did we have.  You know, I just felt it was my duty to worry about those things.  But the first time we (and by we I mean Doug) hooked up the sewer hose and watched those tanks empty out, well, I felt much better.

It’s one thing to know how things work in theory, but quite another to see them work in reality.

We rolled into San Antonio on our 8th day of travel and headed immediately to the nearest Camping World.  We left with a newly installed hatch cover over the bathroom.  They also patched together the water system.  Apparently our first tire catastrophe had damaged the water lines and a valve, which worsened as the days went by causing our water dilemma.

When we pulled into our space at San Antonio’s KOA campground that evening, I knew I was home.  And I would be home every night after that despite where we parked.  The feeling of home had nothing to do with place and everything to do with accepting the total experience.  To enjoy every single day.

Did we have more trials and tribulations along the way?  Yes, we did.  But the experiences and people we met made them insignificant.  I’ll likely drone on for a week or two longer about some of those people and places.  They are part of that big, beautiful, solid country I wrote about last week… that place that gave me so much hope.

Friday night Doug and I finished unloading the trailer.  I told him I actually missed living in it.  It’s kind of nice to go from place to place in a just right space with only the bare essentials.

It’s really only the essentials you need anyway.  Right?

He said he missed it too.

Saturday we hooked up one more time and hauled her to the RV repair shop.  Insurance will fix the body damage from the tire blowout.  The water system will be checked over.  It’ll be ready to roll another day.

In the meantime, we’ll enjoy the memories.

~~~~~ next week: some of my favorite characters




there is more

There’s a reason I’d never be a good reporter or travel writer.

It’s because I am a slow processor.  I’m a ponderer.  A million sights, sounds and experiences mill around in my head.  They marinate there until they can be processed through the heart and out onto paper (or screen).

I planned to blog on the go as we traveled the U.S. these last five-plus weeks.  But I was too busy oohing, ahhing and doing.

So now we’re home and I’ve got scribbled notes, business cards and an i-phone full of pictures.  It’s time to do something with them.  That will take time.

For today I just want to share the over-arching impression of what these several weeks showed to me…. and a suggestion for our elected officials.

First of all, I’m encouraged.

And I feel more blessed than ever to live in America.

When I left home in May I was burdened.  Undoubtedly the years of caregiving and my father’s death played a role in that.  But it was also the news, the political pundits on every channel, the pictures of masked people “demonstrating”, the big cities with their big problems, politicians who don’t seem to be living in the same country (or perhaps, planet!) that I do.  It was all too much.  I wondered what I would find out there.

I found beauty with some gritty problems.  I found good people and a few ornery ones.  I found people who don’t put masks on.  They don’t need masks.  They are too busy living a life they believe in, work hard for and fiercely protect.  They aren’t afraid.

I found a solid country that gives me hope.

We do need another Paul Harvey, however, so America can hear “the rest of the story”.  Because there very much is more to the story.

I think it would be a great idea for all members of congress to take a trip every couple of years.  They should have to travel the roads all around their own state for a month with a limited budget and no entourage.  They should have to deal with mechanical breakdowns, getting lost and not being able to take a shower every day.  They should have to talk to people, real people and experience how their constituents live.  Because honestly, they don’t know us.

And the political pundits on TV?  We just need to turn them off.  They were talking about the same thing last night as they were when I left town on May 22nd.

Doug and I stayed in a variety of RV parks along our way.  Some were very nice and had every convenience you might need.  Others were spartan.  One was a little scary!

This one in Tennessee was beautiful and offered the basic necessities.  The owner was an older gentlemen.  He had to sell off part of his property.  On what is left is this small RV park.  He also grows corn.  And he’s turned an old tobacco drying barn into an event center for family reunions and weddings.  He is probably working harder than he’d imagined at his age, but he appeared and sounded happy.  He lives in a beautiful place, he takes care of it and has what he needs.

Doug and I purposely drove on as many state roads as possible.  We wanted a better view of America than what is offered in the blur of interstate highways.  This choice caused us a few delays and frustrating moments, but I’ve no regrets.

There is so much more to America’s story.  And there is so much more to mine and Doug’s.  We just need to set a spell and talk…