Broken Ribs and a Cup of Coffee
Here I am... just sitting... the temperatures are dropping outside and if you know absolutely anything about me, that is a sign of fear and dread in my world.
I have been a snowbird for the last seven years and was pretty happy with that way of life.
I'd winter where it was warm, 97% of the time. I was usually near water. I was able to get out and about to explore most days. (Hurricane season was sometimes tricky, but it's not like they sneak up on you. You have a pretty good idea of when they're coming and if you need to pack up or not!)
When the danger of cold weather was past, I could make my way up north to visit family and see what else I could find; dragging my camper along behind ready for new adventures.
I haven't owned a winter coat in seven years. I barely wear shoes, for that matter. I am SUCH a beach baby at heart.
Well... this year is going to be a bit different. I am officially trapped in colder weather.
The first weekend in October, I busted my ribs. I didn't think much of it at the time, but five days later, when I was still having trouble breathing, I went in and had it x-rayed. One rib broken, one fractured. Not a thing they can do for it except to tell me to be still for the next 6-8 weeks and don't lift anything over 5-8 pounds.
Trapped. Trapped in cold weather until at least the end of the year.
Trying the see the best in a freezing situation, I find myself inside a new experiment. How to make this the best winter ever? It's a big ask. The cold weather is not just something I complain about for fun (we all have to have our "thing"). The cold, damp weather is actually pretty painful for me since I have arthritis in a good number of my joints. But, it could be worse. I could certainly be worse.
I choose to fill my brain with happy thoughts. I flood my heart with gratitude. I reflect on all the ways that I am blessed.
I am near my family. A rarity since I have found wings... I haven't spent Christmas with my grandchildren in all those years of snow-birding, because... well... cold. (I transferred my Christmas spirit to Easter. Easter is my favorite holiday and I pull out all the stops for this holiday!). But this year, I get to spoil them EXTRA, actually ON Christmas! (Their parents may even INSIST I head back to the south by the time I get done! Lol!)
With out being allowed to do much other than sit around and forcefully WILL my bones to grow back together, it allows me to brainstorm and putter around with other ideas I've been wanting to do, but just couldn't find the time ... Boy, have I got time now! This is the best injury when you have a laptop close by! (Hint- I ALWAYS have a laptop close by.)
I'm ahead in my Bag of Bones Podcast episodes for the first time in... forever. That feels pretty good. I'm working on the new book that now I have NO excuse for it not being released on time at the beginning of December. Plus plans for a years-worth of new books to come out in 2023. (The way my luck runs is that I'll get all these things started then get released from couch therapy and be right back in the rat race!)
The damage was enough that I was informed that I probably won't be able to travel the way I was used to and that I will need to make some pretty severe changes in my future activities. If that ends up being the case, I am so grateful for my adventures over the years and wouldn't trade them for anything. I'll have to be more careful where I end of an invalid next time though, THAT'S for sure!
Okay fine... I know you're asking but how... how did you break your ribs? I was broken in the most loving way possible. With a hug. A hug from a 21 year old football player that was just trying to pop my back. And he did... just went a little beyond that. I heard a crunch, but neither of us believed that I was actually broken...
The evening wore on and I was hugged again and again and the more you love someone, you just want to squeeze them so tight so they know right? Can I just say, I am SO LOVED. Each squeeze probably added to the fracture.
Adding to that... I am pretty active and chest pain or no chest pain, work had to be done, so I pushed through it lifting and carrying... just doin' what I do... until I couldn't anymore.
My jaw dropped when I saw the x-ray.
So now I sit. Trying to figure out how I'm going to be able to NOT step one foot out the door until the crocus comes up. Not gonna happen, so I sip my coffee and snuggle under the piles of blankets begrudging letting others take care of me. I am so loved. I must keep my whining to a minimum.
I love to travel. And the majority of the time, I travel alone. I am often asked questions about my adventures and I love to talk about the places I go and the things I see, but I also get a lot of questions about my thoughts on safety.
So while it's fresh on my mind- since I just finished up a trip from the West Coast- I thought I'd share a few of them here and then some tips I've learned along the way.
So, just to start- I never just wander. When I travel, I always have a destination in mind... and on the way there is pretty much the only time I am spontaneous. I do like to have at least 75% of my trip planned. I usually pull a camper, but this last trip, I lived out of my truck. (I can write an entire article on the pros and cons of just that! Lol!)
I love history, so most of my sidetrips are usually triggered from that but I am also a HUGE fan of natural beauty. I'm a sucker for a waterfall or a sunset and have been known to go out of my way for some beautiful scenery. And yes, I love being outdoors, so this kind of lifestyle fits me to a tee.
I absolutely love to travel and I am always looking for a new adventure or places I haven't been. I am working on the United States and have yet to visit other countries.
Okay, now to your safety.
I'm often asked if I'm I ever scared...
Yes. Yes I am. And there's a fine line between trusting your gut and realizing you may just be looking for things to make you afraid. Trust your gut. If you are ever in a situation and it just doesn't feel right, pay attention.
- Always let someone know where you are.
I am constantly checking in with someone in my circle when and where I stop for the night and when I leave again in the morning. Sometimes I'll let them know where I'm headed, or when I've crossed markers like state lines. Always let someone know where you are. My phone is always linked to someone else, so if anything happens, they can ping my phone... which makes sense that the next one is:
- Always have your cell phone on you. Carry it with you everywhere. Don't leave it in your car, keep it with you. You may need to make an emergency call. You may need someone to find you. You may need a flashlight. You may fall and hurt yourself... and if you ever feel uncomfortable or feel you might be in a dangerous situation- call someone and just talk with them. Even better, FaceTime them. They can see where you are and can see if anyone comes up to you and most times, it will deter anyone's interest in you.
- Always have self protection.
Now, before you dismiss this one with, well, I have a gun, hang on. If you are attacked, they are not going to wait until you fish down to the bottom of your purse or unlock the glove compartment to get your weapon before they proceed. You need some kind of weapon, whatever one you are comfortable with, on your person or in your hand whenever you stop somewhere or are alone. Always, Always, Always in rest areas. Make sure you have multiple options that are easily attainable no matter where you are. Meaning. have them in several places in your vehicle as well as on you.
A caveat to that... know how to use it. And be prepared to use it. If anyone gets close enough to me that I'm able to USE any of my weapons, I won't stop fighting until I am safe.
- Don't wear your hair in a ponytail. (Researching murders and serial killers, you learn weird things.). They look for this and will use your ponytail as a handle. Does this mean you can never wear one? No, just if you're by yourself and in a not-so-crowded space, maybe not then... or wear a low one or a close to the head braid.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Look at everything. Notice where the cars are parked. Hallways. Alleys. People.
-Don't wear headphones or earbuds. When you are out there on your own, you need all of your senses. You certainly don't want to make it easy for someone to be able to sneak up on you.
- Be aware of your cell phone usage. This falls back to "Be aware of your surroundings." If you have your head down, lost in your phone, you're not paying attention to the people around you. Also, try to have your back to a wall or lean against your vehicle while using your phone, so you have one less angle you have to worry about. And on that note...
-Women are the worst about getting into their cars and checking their phones without shutting their doors or locking them. I am guilty of this too. After I fill up the tank at a gas station, I'm usually checking missed messages or my gps... and I leave myself wide open for attack. Get in your vehicle, shut the door, lock it and then check your stuff.
-Make eye contact. Attackers look for easy prey. Shy or timid prey. Don't be that. Stand up straight and hold your head up. If you look at every person in the eye as you pass one another, it's not only a sign of confidence, but you already have a solid look at the person's face. They are less likely to attack you if you can identify them.
- Always park under a light. Make sure you can see and be seen.
- Don't let your gas tank get so low that you are dependent on the "next" gas station. You don't know what that place will be! Pick ones that are well lit and "bonus" if they have security cameras. (and clean bathrooms!)
We have to acknowledge that whenever you choose to travel alone, you are accepting that there is some risk. Something bad could happen. You choose that traveling solo is worth the risk so, even though this section might be uncomfortable, it's quite necessary.
- Security cameras. Always look for and AT the security cameras. Know where they are and always let them see you. If anything should happen to you, this will give the police a time stamp and a visual of where you were. Always look directly into the camera.
- When you go into a gas station, always say something to the cashier. The more unique the better. Ask a question. Pay them a compliment. Say something funny. Drop your change. Be memorable. If something happens to you; when the officers ask, "do you remember seeing this person?" Hopefully they will say, "yeah, that's the lady that complimented me on my hair."
- Have an ICE contact clearly marked in your phone or wallet. (ICE= In Case of Emergency). Make it easy for authorities to be able to connect to your people... just in case.
- Always let those you love know you love them, because... you just don't know.
I don't say these things to be morbid, and even by doing every single thing does not mean it will be 100% effective. But it might help.
Life is too short to pass up opportunities that make you happy or to stay in one place because of fear. But you can also be smart about it.
These aren't in any order, I just added them as they came to me... and yes, I follow each one. I love my family and as much as I love going out to wander, I love coming back home to see their faces. So I try to be as safe as I possibly can.
I hope these help you too.
Follow your heart. Make some memories. Have adventures! Leave a legacy. You only get one time around so make the most of it!
Month 2 Check In
It's hard to believe that I have only been on this adventure for two months! It feels like I've been out here for at least four. I've been spending like it's been four! (#funnynotfunny)
I was supposed to check in around the 11th, so I'm a few days late.
I was whining about gas prices being a whopping $2.54 per gallon and and I was struggling with that. I just had to fill my gas tank at $3.79 per gallon. Having $70 and $80 gas trips are the norm. (and that's probably about half a tank!!). So, that's the biggest change from last month to this.
The second, is the campgrounds. It's getting more difficult to find spaces available. I realize how great camping is and I'm excited that everyone else is finally figuring that out, however... it is leaving very little space for me! Campgrounds in the midwest average in the $20- $30 range... the further west you go, you start at the $33 range and it can go up from there... WAY up. The highest I've seen was $112. PER NIGHT! And that did not come with any thing special. It's crazy. I mean, really crazy. And I didn't budget for that... so I am SO over budget.
I am down to one pair of jeans that don't have rips or tears in them. To be fair, they were old to begin with. Pretty sure I haven't bought a pair of jeans in at least ten years. But I sure have been rough on them! I love my jeans. They are my favorite thing to wear, year round. And out of all the clothes, I packed, I pretty much only wear the same 6 or 7 outfits. So, if you'd like to rub it in that I didn't need all the things I thought I would need, this would be a good place for that... because coming right behind it is the kitchen items.
Turns out, I didn't really need all of those, either. In all fairness, I was supposed to be doing a heck of a lot more cooking! I still have yet to use either of my dutch ovens. The propane stopped working in the camper (yes, there's propane in the tanks), so I have no stove (or hot water for that matter). If I can't heat it up in the microwave, it has to be eaten cold. Or I have a crock pot, so I've been making chili a lot.
So, yeah... all of my mixing bowls and baking tools, pots, pans... just being carried from one place to the next.
Which means my food supply is still in pretty good shape. Since I was ready for the thought of not having much fresh food, I haven't had to go to the store for much. Since I am the worst pioneer ever, I gave up on trying to ONLY do and eat what they did, because I can't cook outside. (Turns out wildfires are a HUGE thing this way and it's no joke. They don't allow any type of out door flames during the summer.)
So, I will probably go home with 90% of my flour and 80% of my beans that were purchased for the trip.
I've eaten out twice this month... if you want to count gas station food. And I have cheated with bottles of Pepsi about 8 times. (In my defense, they sell vanilla Pepsi here, which I can't get in the midwest, so I splurge... plus it helps ease the pain of the gas price I just paid!) Other than that, I just buy my half n half for my coffee. I need to get some veggies here soon. All the produce markets are open and I love me some fresh produce! (And still don't want scurvy.)
The Wildwood Conestoga has really taken a beating for some reason. Do the manufacturers not know that the camper is going to be set up and taken down over and over again? Don't other campers do this? It shouldn't be so fragile! It shouldn't be having so much trouble. It's only a 2017!
So, I've already mentioned my propane tanks. (No hot water, and no cooking flame), now my rear legs won't extend, so I have to figure out how to deal with that. My ball hitch either won't lock onto the ball, or won't let go! So we have this dance every single time in hooking up and unhooking to make the ball hitch fits just right. It's so aggravating!
I rarely use the air conditioning, (that could be the problem) but I had it on yesterday because it was 106 degrees and it whined the whole time... and when I turned it off for the evening, some exhaust fan (somewhere) was blowing and whining... I don't even know.
I've had three flat tires. Two on the trailer and one on Xander. (I had to get four new tires for Xander, because they were all close to going out, so I bit the bullet and did that. Ouch, but I feel safer. I do still have to buy a new spare tire for the camper just in case it happens again.)
The temperatures here are SO hot and dry, and even though I don't speed on the highway, I'm afraid of the tires over-heating or something happening. I've had to call my insurance roadside three times so far on this trip, so I can't imagine what my premium is going to look like next month. Ugh... the price of chasing your dreams.
Let's see, what else... nope, still. no videos. Not gonna happen.
I haven't written the new book either. I'm just so busy taking everything in! Every morning though, just as I am coming into conscience my brain is writing. Not that I can remember by the time I get back to my computer... but it IS up there... so there's hope. I'm thinking that once I am finished with this trip, all the ideas and senses and feelings and characters will come bubbling up.
I've also been thinking about creating a book about the actual trip- talking about what I've learned and sharing some photos... like a more complete and orderly History Revisited on paper... and also a journal/planner for other people who are getting into the camping thing. I really do love this life. (And I will be so sad when I reach the end of this trip. It's all coming too fast. ). But for others just getting started or want to document their trip but don't know how or what to say.. this journal thing might help... that's just an idea though...
So, if you're reading this and are not yet familiar with my writing style, please don't see complaining. (Okay, fine, there might be some, because this life is sometimes hard!). This is mainly documenting. I just like to keep track of stuff and I thought you might want to see the other side of things as well. I'm sorry it's not more scientific... probably why it comes across as complaining, but it's really not.
I am so happy to be doing this. It is such an adventure and I am learning so much. And not just historically speaking! I am learning more about me every day. I've discovered that I'm a lot more afraid than I thought. It's one thing to talk a big game, it's another thing to be out here facing those fears (or side skirting them) on a daily basis.
This is something that will keep me company for years to come. I have SO many pictures to go through and I can't wait to cover my walls with them!
This history and this country is absolutely amazing. I am seeing things I've never seen before and actually seeing and feeling and using all my senses, gives me such a deeper understanding to those pioneers who have traveled this road over a hundred years ago. I am so honored to be. able to do this and be able to write about if for years to come.
I will do just about anything to see ALL the monuments wherever I am traveling. Caveat to that is if I'm pulling the camper, I can't very well whip over to the side of the road to see the historical marker sign. But if I'm out and about, heck yeah, I want to see them all!
So I have to tell you about my adventure today.
I went out in search of the Oregon Buttes, that the pioneers used to guide them on their way. They could see them for miles and miles and pointed their wagons right at them to help them navigate the South Pass. (This was the only place they could get through the mountains) It was a landmark that way a high priority for them to see, and so it became so for me.
I was GOING to be content, grabbing some picture from a distance, but a woman that was working at the visiter's center of the South Pass City, told me theres a little known road that could get me closer.
I asked, "Are there signs?"
She said, "Yeah, I mean, you'll have to look for them and then there's a monument..."
There it was... I had to do it.
So I take off down this dirt road... I can see them... WAY off in the distance... I could have been, should have been happy with that... nope. There's a monument.
Make a left at the highway. Once you pass the rest area and cross over the Sweetwater River, you'll make a left.
Uh... no signs.... I go a little further, cross the Continental Divide... Now I KNOW I missed it.
Turns out the only sign of any kind, is a street sign. So, I head down the gravel road in search for the monument.
It said it would be about 10 miles, so I knew to be patient. I was only going about 30 mph, and the roads twisted and turned every which way, uphill, down hill... and I could see the buttes in the distance, getting closer, and closer...
I am snapping pictures left and right, because I just can't wrap my head around all this beauty. It's just breath taking. I'm stopping, taking pictures, inch forward...
I'm getting some really amazing shots of these buttes and then the gravel road turns to a dirt road. Pause. Do I go? Do I turn back? There is literally. NOTHING out here. No humans, no other vehicles, no phones, gas stations, or cell service.
Maybe the monument is at the base of the buttes? That's how it's been at all the other places... I keep going and then, suddenly there's a heard of pronghorn antelope! I've been waiting my whole trip to see these!!
I finally decide to stop and turn around and am looking for a safe place to do this. This road is NARROW! So I slow down even more and then around the next bend, is some of the most beautiful scenery!! I know I keep saying that, but in my head, I can't understand how the next curve can be more beautiful than the last curve!
And then I think.... NO ONE gets to see this! This stuff, right here... this is like a private show! I am literally in awe, I can't even describe it.
I had to upgrade my cloud storage after this trip!!
Okay, okay, let me fast forward, so the dirt road eventually PASSES where the base of the buttes would have. been. (I never got to the base, but the road I was on. was now veering away from them all together. I had to turn around... no really, i mean it this time. So, reluctantly, I did.
I drove a few feet and a pack of wild horses WITH A BABY runs across the road in front of me!! Omigoodness! It was so ... so.... I couldn't get out my camera fast enough. I did get some, but... again... this was just for me.
I had to give up the monument, and while I might have been disappointed for maybe a minute, so many other things made this side trip SO worth it!! The views, the scenery- these mountains were painted!!! They had blue and red and peach colored stripes!! My God, is an awesome God. And they are hidden back here along a long, long (LONG) dirt road. I feel so very priviledged. (I will be sharing many of the photos in the History Revisited facebook group if you're curious.
On the way back, after getting back to the gravel, I look to my left and down this tiny little dirt driveway, is a stand. I start cracking up laughing. Is that my monument???? I whip the truck and pull up next to it. There it was... my monument/plaque to let me know how important the Oregon Buttes were to the pioneers.
And to think... if I HAD found the monument when other normal people would have... I would have missed the whole show.
And if just this story alone, doesn't have you believing in miracles and that He watches every step... then here's the rest of the story.
When I'm almost home, a warning light pops up on my dash. I can't do anything right now, so I go straight back to the campground to look it up. Tire pressure.
I'm so tired and worn out from this trip, but decide to go check it out, because I have another long drive tomorrow.
My rear tire on the driver's side is FLAT. Not low... F. L. A.T.
I call the good folks at the Roadside Service, I pay lots of money to every year and they send a guy out. Fixed. No problem.
But- IF that tire would have gone flat out there on that dirt road... I would have been in serious trouble. There was no phone signal. There were no cars passing by. There was nothing.
I am so thankful that God was watching over me and got me safely home. I do believe in miracles because I witness them on a regular basis, this time, today, they were happening to me.
The Pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail from the 1840s - the 1860s didn't have GPS and for those early trips, they barely had maps!
What they did have are mile markers. No, not the ones we have today along side the highway, but they had all natural landmarks that they could use to guage their direction, how far they've come and to help others that come along behind them.
Just like being at Ft. Laramie on the fourth of July was an important date for me, reaching some of these other landmarks were equally worth celebrating.
The halfway point for the Oregon Trail, is agreed upon my most to be Independence Rock.
This spot is in the middle of nothingness of Wyoming. There are huge, beautiful bluffs and buttes pushing up from the ground and settling in with such character and raw elegance, but then there's this one, that kind of sets out on it's own. It's somewhat smooth and if you look at it in just the right way, it resembles an elephant that lay down to take a nap. You can only see it's back, but it's unmistakable.
And... I have reached it.
So, the folks that decided to name this beast Independence Rock, did so because it's where THEY decided to stop to celebrate the birth of our nation. which means they completely missed out on all the fun at Ft. Laramie, but... who am I to judge? Lol.
This became a signature point as well. This rock, however is hard granite, so unless they were willing to get out the tools to carve their name in deep, most just fell back on grease to paint their name. Sadly, most of those have washed away from the weather and time. There is an interesting collection of names still visible at one end of the rock which has since been protected with fencing, and plaques have been hung here as well.
It's SO cool to see, I still get goosebumps writing about it.
I was going to climb to the top, but was only wearing my flip-flops. Not good climbing shoes. Although, if it was cool enough a barefoot climb would have been possible. It was not, however cool enough.
And I found out later that there are a ton more names carved on top. Had I known that then, I probably would have made a greater effort to dig out my tennis shoes.
In spite of that, here I am... at the halfway point. My trip to Oregon is half over. I am both excited and quite sad. It always just seem to go so fast, even though I'm striving to make distance, I don't want it to be over.