70 days, 7000 miles, Day 25

July 19, 2001

Insight Inventory (Major Ones from This Trip So Far)

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 (1) I have charisma. I know this is kind of a conceited proclamation and anyone reading this journal in the future will have to excuse me but this is a journey of self discovery. People seem to like me and want to talk to me.  Not people caught up in images.  I have to stop worrying about being rejected by plastic people (and make sure never to become  a plastic person myself). I hope I never develop into someone who can’t see souls. I don’t want to be a tribal person who clusters together with others so I can exclude and make fun of others.  This insight is  important to me.  I was very shy growing up and after my divorce lost any confidence I did have.  I would go out into the world, talk to people and then go home and critique myself.  I would always berate myself for the stupid things I said and my social awkwardness. I am not going to do that anymore.

(2) The greatest social movements of our time were nonviolent acts by people possessing great faith, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Pope John Paul.  Faith is an energizer that propels people to accomplish extraordinary things.

(3) What do we do about the poor? Is it right for me to have material things when others don’t? Is it hypocritical to say I care when I’m really not willing to share all that I have? Maybe giving back doesn’t  have to be about things. Maybe I can give back in other ways, listening, sharing wisdom, writing, just smiling and saying “hello”. Or  I can simply ask people how they are and if they have a problem, ask how can I help.

 

 

70 Days, 7000 Miles, Day 23

July 17, 2001

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Today I crossed The Crow Indian Reservation. I drove 44 miles through a vast, dry western landscape with no towns or houses. It frightened me because I didn’t see any vehicles either. I rode out the fear because I knew God was with me. I was very much alone and very much in His hands. I willed myself to be alright and I made it.  Thankfully, it was His will, too.

I remember one time, my mom who had a strong, faith told me not to mention God so much.  My dad, a WWII vet, used to say that there were no atheists in foxholes.  I have people in my life who would find my reliance on a supernatural presence very weird. “Live and let live” is my mantra. I expect the same. I am steadfast in my beliefs and they have served me well.

I took a citified day in Billings, Montana. I got my oil changed, my hair cut and shopped for a long time in a Super Walmart. After driving through small towns with little stores, going to Walmart was like visiting a very interesting museum. I walked down the aisles admiring the colorful packaging and the variety of spending possibilities.  It made me realize what years of American consumerism had done to me.

 

I stayed in a KOA campsite that evening.  I felt like a vagrant with my tent among the large RV’s. They were the size of buses and had dragged behind them expensive vehicles which were way more classier than my used Dodge minivan. Needless to say, I didn’t feel as comfortable in this campgrounds as I had at the Cottonwood.

70 Days, 7000 Miles, Day 22

July 16, 2001

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Another day at the Cottonwood Campground on The Bighorn River. I’m the only woman in a man’s world. They are all nice to me and want to know where I’m from and why I’m taking this trip. I was given a hammer to pound the stakes of my tent, an invitation to sit around the campfire and have a beer, and an offer to ride a drift boat on the river and fish.  I only accepted the hammer.  I’m many miles from home alone, I have to be careful.  And plus I fear the wrath of my daughter who made me promise not to take any chances.

I fished alone in the morning and was later joined by a guy upstream.  His line drifted to where I was fishing and he told me to move.  I held my ground and didn’t budge. After a  little while, I brought in my line because something didn’t feel right. It was all tangled because on the Bighorn you are suppose to  fish with two things at the end of the line.  I stood there unsuccessfully trying to fix it all.  I knew the man was watching me and probably shaking his head or even laughing. I think the moment was one of the most embarrassing in my life. I gathered up my line and trudged out of the river with my head down.

I went to a narrower part of the river and made sure no one was around. I was thrilled to see hundreds of white fish swimming on the bottom of the river, all facing the same direction as they looked for food.  They were all around me and I was part of their world.  I caught a few,  feeling their life on my line and then in my hands as I set them free. It was a great moment.

That night I told my six new men friends in the campsite next to me that I caught two white fish. One of them said that white fish don’t count.  It was the last night on the Bighorn for all of us.  I asked the group how many they  managed  to catch on this trip.  The answer was none. I didn’t say a word. It’s all okay. I now understand and I forgive them. Trout fishing is a hard for everyone.

Rhonda took a picture of me at my site at the picnic table in front of my tent.  She said she was going to put it on their brochure or website.

This trip is taking on a tempo, a rhythm.  I’m really enjoying myself.

 

70 Days, 7000 Miles, Day 21

July 15, 2001

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I’m set up in The Cottonwood Campsite in Fort Smith, Montana where the US Post Office is in the laundromat.  You can fold your clothes and look at the wanted posters at the same time. And, when everything is finally all neat in your basket, you can buy some stamps and send a postcard.

Ugh! Men at the campsite!!  Get out of my face! Telling me I won’t be able to catch any fish unless I hire a guide! I was advised to pay  $200 a day  for one because I’m just wasting my time!

Am I bitter? Yes! Men fish for power, to unearth the secrets of the universe and conquer and overcome the wild beasts. I am very ticked off at these fishermen with their condescending, long winded B.S. The have been fishing all their lives while I have only known the sport sporadically. It frustrates me because I can sense the ways of river and the outdoors. I have a memory of it all from women ancestors long ago, an  instinct for it in my soul. Unfortunately, it is buried under years of domestic conditioning and  gender specific rules.

I want to fish even though I rarely catch anything.  I think it’s because there is a longing in me. A longing  to be be outdoors, to connect with nature, to understand the nature of nature, and to be a part of it rather than just an observer.

A guide is “someone with sufficient knowledge or understanding of a place (territory) or situation to assist another with the greatest efficiency in the least amount of time.” A fishing guide has years of hands-on experience. People who have more money than time pay for that knowledge. America is the nation of the quick fix. Unfortunately,  I have the time but not the money.  I guess I just need to practice more.

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Rhonda, the manager of the campgrounds, stopped by my site. I told her about all the fishing advice I received today and about my aversion to being lectured.  In my long 23 year marriage, I was belittled all the time and I still bristle when I’m put down.  I offer Rhonda wine in my new plastic camping wine glasses. We sit at my picnic table and she explained how important fishing is to these men and that they just want to help.  They take pride in their skill, she says, and in no way are trying to make me feel bad. She has come to know a lot of them and  likes them.  She is right,  I’m too quick to judge.  Maybe my divorce is still too fresh.

I wish Rhonda a good night. The coyotes howl in the Montana darkness.  I have gained so much this day, saved by a chance conversation over a glass of wine with a kind stranger. Ebbs and flow manifest themselves again.  A bad day turns into a darn good day with Rhonda’s  gift of compassionate insight. The balance is restored and the beauty enhanced by contrasts is once more renewed.

70 Days, 7000 Miles, Day 20

July 12, 2001

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I went to The Little Big Horn National Park today.  I love the talks at The National Parks, the rangers really know their stuff and do great presentations. What I carried away today was how these Native Americans prepared spiritually for battle. Using a mirror they would carefully apply their  warpaint in such a way to enhance their confidence, pride, and strength. As they looked into the mirror they willed a good day, one of action and positive results. When they went to fight they wore their best clothes and focused their minds on victory instead of fear or death.  Their attitude was their greatest weapon.

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I try to take in as much as I can and when I returned to my campsite I was very tired.  I ate dinner, and read until dark.  In the glow of my Coleman lantern, I’m sheltered from the darkness. In my cocoon of light, I can’t see the rest of the world and I don’t care if the world sees me. I’m in my own little world, a creature of the light.  It defines me and holds me safe in its warmth.

It’s funny that I’m not really afraid of the dark.  So many times I have walked down my country road at night from, my neighbor, Leona’s house and back to my own home.  Is not being afraid of the dark a prerequisite for being free and being able to travel alone?

Here within the slower tempo of this trip,  I have time to think and question myself.  I seem to have  the strength and courage for big things but am I  brave enough to handle everyday conflicts and disagreements?  Have I really learned to effectively stand up for myself? I have fifty more days to figure it out.

Good night, Light. Good night, Darkness.

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70 days, 7000 miles, Day 19

July 11, 2001

I’m in Montana, one of my original destinations for this trip.  I’m going to do some serious fly fishing here. But the day started out bad because I couldn’t find the place to get a National Parks Pass. I wasted a lot of time. Somehow things finally turned out.  I kind of knew they would. The same theme keeps playing itself over and over again. Just wait out the negativity, the doubts, the hopelessness. Don’t give up hope. This, too, shall pass. Life is like a wave, if you stay down you won’t appreciate the rise. It all balances out unless you choose to stay stuck.

I wrote down a quote from Hillary Clinton today that I saw in the newspaper. “Each of us is a pioneer in our own life.  We are charting new territory everyday…..The people I admire are those who are willing to go forward no matter what the odds.” Am I a pioneer? Can I help other women? There are few who are doing what I am doing.  Is it courage?  I didn’t actually have to fight demons or villains or injustice to take this journey. But I did have to overcome the fear inside me. Maybe our greatest enemy is the monster voices of  the media and our culture that say “we shouldn’t” or “we can’t”. We have to turn down the volume.

I found a great campsite not far from the famous Little Big Horn River and had a visitor.

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I love this trip. I’m learning a lot. Themes keep repeating. Are there just a few basic truths in life, just a small number of things we really have to  know? Why do I have a feeling that they are all right here,right in front of me?

70 days,7000 miles, Days 15, 16, 17

July 7, 8, and 9, 2001

IMG_2395Made it through Wisconsin, Minnesota (“Land of a Thousand Bites”), and North Dakota. I traveled beautiful green landscapes and fast roads.  But I do believe the chamber of commerce adds a 1000 feet to each mile so we easterners don’t get discourage traveling these long, long distances between towns.

In New Salem, Wisconsin I had to stop and get a few pictures of Selma, the world’s largest cow (not real). Big she is, I could stand under her udders. That is, if I wanted to.

IMG_2394NPR is my constant companion. When I lost one station I was able to pick up another one down the road. I think I’ll have the equivalent of another college degree when I get home.

A segment on spirituality was very interesting. The speaker suggested that we  ry not to do things for results, like recognition, fame, and money but rather do them to become or be our ideal selves. I would like to be a famous writer someday. I have already imaged being  interviewed on news programs and signing my bestsellers at Borders. Do I write on a regular basis? No. I think there is a big disconnect here. Something to think about.

I made an observation yesterday. I saw a young teenage girl who reminded me of myself when I was young  because she was so self conscientious. Why do girls bend and scrape like minority characters in those horrible old racist movies? Why do I bend and scrape? Why am I, in certain situations, still shy and unconfident. Did my parents and society give me that role? Have I been socialized by the game masters in power? Are there rules not based on logic but on one-upmanship? Generational rules that continue to stand up against the tides of time and change? It’s my fault as much as anyone’s. Why? Because I relinquished obediently and continued to participate. At 52, I need to stop.  I have the right and the sources now to join the ranks of the game masters and write new rules.  I’m not asking for a revolution but rather an evolution of expectations. It is something we must all be aware of and work towards.

In the Victorian era, a woman was not allowed to travel alone without an escort. Well, today July 9, 2001, I’m over a 1000 miles from home, alone. Thank you to all those in history who changed the rules about woman travelers and gave me the freedom I’m enjoying today.

 

 

 

 

 

70 days, 7000 miles, Day 14

July 6, 2001

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Breakfast at a cafe outside, Wakefield, Michigan. I’m going to put a lot of road behind me in the next few days.  Got to be careful, a lot of deer around here. I saw a young buck on the side of the road and I don’t know who was more scared him or me. Women admire my quest.  Freedom calls a lot of them. A woman I talked to at The Straits told me about  her dream of escaping from her family for just a little while and going on a biking trip alone.

 

A Menopausal Odyssey, Day 13

July 5, 2001

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When I was taking my stuff down and packing up to leave the campsite, Jim was watching me.  I went up to him, shook his hand and told him he was a wonderful person and that I so  glad that I had met him.  As I drove off,  I could see him in my rear view mirror watching my van.  I feel so sorry for him.  It was very apparent that he had some problems and I hoped that he was getting some help.

It was a traveling day. I stopped at Kmart and bought a comfortable chair for $11.99 and finally found a pair of plastic camping wine glasses. I got a campsite near Wakefield, Michigan.  I sent my son the stuffed animal skunk that he told me to look for and some Michigan fudge.  Each day is different. “Give us this day our daily bread”.