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!
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 arrived in Independence, MO on May 7th and I count as “jumping onto the trail” on May 13- so here I am 34 days in…
In the spirit of transparency- I totally ran out of fruit and vegetables. I have some dried fruit that I add to my granola, but I had nothing fresh.
Now, I just so happened to be researching an episode on scurvy. This is one disease that scares me! It's preventable until....
If you don't get enough fresh food; veggies, fruit, especially vitamin C, You could contract it and don't KNOW you have it until your gums start bleeding, and by that time its too late... you've got one foot in the grave! So I freaked out a little bit and binge bought some produce. Oranges, lemons, pineapple, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes.... let's just say that my little RV fridge was PACKED!!
I have been eating it frugally to make it last, and it may sound silly, but I feel so much better just knowing I have some! Lol! Sometimes knowledge is dangerous!
I am almost out of my half and half that I use for my coffee. I have half dozen eggs left and I am really really sad about running out of them. They are a staple food in my diet.
I have only eaten one pound of my 25 pound supply bacon, so I should be good there. And I have 4 pounds of hamburger that's frozen- so I'm saving that. (They had to kill the cows last! Lol!)
I have yet to tap into most of my dry goods purchased specifically for my journey- I broke into a new coffee and sugar. I'm still sparingly working through what I had already before I came to MO and I am over budget by $117. I blame that on my Memorial Day blunder and gas prices have jumped to over the $3 mark. I really wasn't anticipating campgrounds to be so expensive either.
For Nebraska, and Wyoming (which is coming next week), they have an EXTRA fee to be able to use their parks for camping, or the national and state landmarks and what not. For Nebraska, it was "only" $48 for the year,or $8/day... For Wyoming, it's almost $100/annual! And you'd need a pass for everything I want to visit while I'm going through their state! I was not expecting that, and it's gonna set me back.
I realized that the original pioneers coffee was still in bean form so when THEY brought 15 pounds of it, it was heavier… but when I bring 15 pounds of it already ground… I think it should last me well into the winter! Oregon and beyond! Plus there’s the time bonus! I don’t have to roast mine, then grind, then brew… I just scoop. I’m so spoiled! Coffee was also a longer lasting item for them as well. It was one of the last reminders of their “civilized life” and they made it last well after the food supply ran out.
A replacement for coffee along the trail as suggested by Randolph Macy was dried horsemint. I’d be willing to try it. There's actually a couple different recipes for coffee substitutes that I'm curious about. (Acorns??)
I keep “waiting” to get away from population so I can perform all the experiments that I have on my list, but I guess I need to settle into the idea that people really are everywhere and I’m just going to have to do these things under the scrupulous eyes of onlookers. Let them judge as they may.
I am still excited about trying all my recipes, Do I think I’ll run out of anything? Maybe sugar… that’s my first guess. Lol
I think my issue will be that I will get bored with my fare.
I’m not a fan of bread in general, and the thought of eating some form of it every single day is not exciting to me, but, it probably wasn’t to them either… at least I have refrigeration and don’t have to pick the worms off my bacon before I eat it! Lol
So things I have to decide… do I cheat and get more creamer or do I wait until their next opportunity they would have had to purchase supplies.
And “technically” I could have brought a cow with me, so I would have a steady supply of cream and milk… yes, I think I’ll go with that story because I have a recipe for ice cream they made on the trail which is the ONLY way I’m going to survive if I come across snow…
I am really learning so much on this trip. I have read stories and I read regularly now from their letters and journal entries and what a difference it makes! I can now see what they saw. I feel what they felt. When the talk about the fierce winds and how it whipped up dust- I am literally feeling it! It's surreal!
And when they talk about passing certain landmarks, I get downright giddy when I have passed them too. They are always on my mind. I am always thinking about how they would have thought or felt or reacted to things.
Today, for example, the temperatures reached 104 degrees. No joke and it's only June. It's extra hot these days, I believe because of the black pavement, but we can always escape the weather. I am always safe.
I chose not to use air conditioning most days- I just don't like it- but even I had to turn it on so my cat would cook to death. I'll admit, it even got hot for me... but the winds do an amazing job of keeping the heat level down, so if they could find shade so they weren't in direct sunlight, it would have been hard, but doable... and here's where I KNOW where they are on their journey and I know the trees are starting to thin out so there's not much shade... and I know they are getting ready to enter mountain territory.
Which reminds me... with the prices so high, I might have to switch to boondocking here soon... little concerned about that, but I'll ford that stream when I get there...
I have used some of my propane to take a shower or two and wash dishes. I'm in a bare-bones campground so... I'm not sure how fast propane burns through, I've never really used it before, so I'll have to keep an eye on that. I'm told it will cost about $25 to refill at any Lowes or Walmart.
I also need to purchase and fill a couple gas cans- everyone I talk to says to NOT go to Wyoming, pulling a camper without at least one five gallon gas can. So... there's that...
And since I'm at it, if I do have to boondock, I found a solar powered generator that will charge my phone and laptop that's not too expensive. I'm hoping it will run a fan as well... again, so the cat doesn't die of heat stroke. I'd rather not die either, if I'm being honest. I mean, how embarrassing would that be if I literally died, on the Oregon Trail?
As far as speed... I am still WAY ahead of my pioneer self. I am tracking to be in Fort Laramie,WY for the 4th of July. It's sad to me that technically there IS no more FORT Laramie, just a tiny town and that they will probably not be doing anything super special for Independence Day... but I'll know.
This is the time I'm "allowed" to restock on any supplies, eat some ice cream, cake, maybe even a pie... have some sarsaparilla, dance and relax for a couple days.
And lastly- my writing. I have not written anything on the new book that is due out this year. The Bag of Bones Podcast research, writing, editing and recording then promoting... take SO much time. SO much... plus I've taken a few hits this year and I am struggling to get past over or through those... it's really affected my creative side... it troubles me, which doesn't help matters. I believe it will work itself out and I'll be back to my happy writing self in no time. Fingers crossed...
I know, I know, I said I was going to video all this amazing stuff, but I just can't wrap my head around it, so it's going to have to be photos. Best I can do, for right now until I get a "team" that I can hand off the editing and uploading process to.
I have put off these new recipe challenges for a time because of that- well, that and other things, like... fear. Which is silly, because, if it doesn't work out, I can just try again... these are things I have to remind my perfectionist self, because it's afraid of being embarrassed. #truth
But I purchased all of the supplies the pioneers had on their list, so I had better get to it.
I found a few bread recipes that I'd like to start with. Bread was a staple for them. The women made it almost every day. They sometimes were able to make thicker, more stout bread that would last longer and when supplies got low, they would scale back to "hard tack".
Hard Tack was a thick cracker that goes way, way back. It's pretty tasteless and was mainly used to thicken soups or be soaked up in beer or broth to make the... whatever... more filling. So supplies would last longer.
Yes, I'll make hard tack, but since I know I won't eat it the way the original recipe was made, I found a few tweaks that might make it palatable.
There's various forms of corn bread (some used it as in addition to a main meal- like with beans, and others used it AS the meal by adding bacon or ham or sometimes dried veggies to it.)
Biscuits. And fried breads. All on my list.
I found that I am missing a few things before I can use my cast iron dutch ovens... for instance, I have no way to remove the hot lid. I have nothing to redistribute hot coals... I knew that I wanted to cook outside... I guess just actually acquiring the dutch ovens was exciting enough that I didn't really think past that! Lol!
So when I get back into civilazaton, I will snag those few missing articles. In the meantime, I am mesmerized with YouTube videos and the like and can't wait to get started. Watch for the videos!!
Ha- just kidding... plenty of photos though!! Lol!
I was taught to "leave things better than you've found it." And my mother was/is a huge advocate for "be respectful of others". And when looking out into the world and intermingling with other humans, I forget that not everyone had the same amazing momma as I did.
I try never to travel on the weekends as there seems to be heavier traffic and people get upset if I don't want to go 75 on the highway dragging my camper. (Now if it was just me and Xander - my truck- I'd be all over it!)
So, that usually leaves me in campgrounds over the weekend.
Normally, I don't mind. I love hearing the kids squealing in the cold water and playing into the sunset. I love seeing that families are spending time together. I love the smell of a good campfire and grilling of their fresh catch of the day. I love that people still appreciate nature... sort of... and that "camping" is still a thing that is sure a tradition that will carry on into the future.
This weekend, there was such little regard for others and zero respect for the grounds and the nature around it. It just makes me so sad. Who taught you that this is okay?
There was trash, broken bottles and cigarette butts all over the place. People left their wrappers for the brand new floaty devices all over the beach.
People drove through the campgrounds- despite there being signs, despite the children running around- too fast or in the wrong direction! Would it take SO much time out of your life, just to follow the rules?
While I was out walking a vehicle sped past me and kicked up all kinds of rock dust, but also shot a rock out that hit me in my leg. That sucker hurt! I have a lovely purple bruise commemorating the moment and a regular reminder, every time I accidentally bump it, about that rude human.
If you want to play music at your campsite, that's fine. But don't assume everyone else needs to hear it. And, in the same instance, if you are in a neighboring campsite and the music is not to your liking, is it REALLY necessary to play YOUR genre even louder?
The bathroom... oh... please... just... can't you just... you know, be considerate of others? Or at the very least take responsibility for yourself and don't assume that it's someone else's job to come along after you and clean things up.
And please... keep an eye on your children and pets. Neither are meant to be left in a vehicle while you go out and play. No other explanation should be necessary. And if you keep your pets on a leash or lead, there would be no need to scream and yell obscenities at them because they are not staying in the invisible parameter of your space.
All of these things, state parks especially, are here for your enjoyment. Please stop doing the things that will make the state parks decide that it's just not worth it anymore.
We all have different ideas of what we want to experience in our campground vacations and we all have a different idea of what a good time is. Please! Go camping! Have a good time! Create awesome memories for your children and yourselves- but don't rob others of theirs.
Please don't make my state parks unsafe for me, I would just be so sad.
Consider this a public service announcement.
-Pick up your trash.
-Respect others and their space and property.
-Take care of your littles, furry and otherwise.
-Leave things better than you find it.
And our state parks will be here for years and years to come.
Rant over. Have an amazingly beautiful day.