70/7000 Flying Insects, Thin Tent Walls, A Flood, and A Bag of Jewels

Day 61  August 25, 2001

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I stayed in a campsite in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Two unsettling things happened there.  First, the whole campground was filled with all types of flying insects.  I asked  if this was the norm and the people in charge just shrugged their shoulders.  Forest fires were popping up all over The West and I wondered if insects, like other animals, migrated to escape the danger. I never considered that before but it seemed to make sense.

My second situation involved the married couple with their two small kids who had the site next to me. Sometimes campgrounds are like mini suburban housing projects, one dwelling almost on top of the other.  This family’s tent was about a foot and a half from my tent.  I guess their kids were sound sleepers and wouldn’t hear any love making sounds.  What this couple didn’t realize was that I, inches away, wasn’t a sound sleeper and that I had very good hearing.

The next morning I went into Grand Forks where in 1997 The Red River had flooded the city. It was interesting to actually be at a place that had gotten so much coverage in the news.

I stopped at a craft shop on the main street and immediately rummaged through their clearance table at the front of the store. Nestled in a basket was a collection of shiny plastic jewels in all sorts of colors. There must of been close to a hundred of them. I asked the saleslady how much she wanted for all of them.  I guess she just wanted to rid of them because she let me buy them for almost nothing. I walked out of the shop triumphant as I listened to the jewels jumbling around in the bag.  I knew my  second grade students would love them as rewards. These magical pieces of plastic were far better than stickers.  I was so excited about the smiles and motivation I knew this treasure would bring to my classroom.

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70/7000 Slept in a Parking Lot in Jasper, Alberta

Day 50 August 14, 2001

I’m a worrier. It’s bad because it’s stressful but also good because I tend to have all my ducks in a row. Before the trip I had anxiety about the ultimate travel nightmare, not finding a place to stay. I saw it as the worst thing that could happen to me and since I was an excellent catastrophizer, I was sure it  would happen. So even though I was newly single with my kids on their own, I bought a soccer mom’s minivan. I took out the back seats and hit the road, confident that I would always have a bed wherever I went.

I took one last picture of beautiful Lake Louise and headed north for my last few days before I would start the long trek home.

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I planned on camping in Jasper, Alberta, and my neurotic preparedness paid off.  The campground was filled and so were all the hotels and motels. I parked in the public lot in the center of town and realized other people in campers and vans were settling in for the night. They were being discrete, moving around inside their vehicles with flashlights and speaking in low voices.  I followed their lead and inconspicuously moved some of my stuff  to the front seats  so I had a clear space for bedding in the back of the van.

Before I turned in for the night, I met a couple with a nice RV  who were also parking lot dwellers.  They were astonished to hear about my solo cross country trip and invited me to stay with them in Salt Lake City for The 2002  Summer Olympics. Wow! I took their information.

Another great thing happened. I looked across the parking lot and saw a double rainbow.  I was at peace. “It takes both showers and sunshine to make a rainbow.”

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I went across the street and acting like I owned the place,  I went into the restroom at a gas station, brushed my teeth, and did what I needed to do. I sauntered out, went into my van, locked the doors, and sleeping in my clothes had a remarkably good night’s sleep.

70/7000 Beautiful Lake Louise, The Canadian Rockies

 

Day 47  August 11, 2001

A take my breath away moment, seeing Lake Louise for the first time.

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As I stood at the edge of the lake, very engaged in gawking with my mouth open, a ranger with a survey on a clipboard saw my  potential  as an extremely positive statistic. “Would you considered this the most beautiful place you have ever seen?” she asked.

My answer surprised me. “No” I said.

“What do you consider as the most beautiful place you have ever seen?

“My backyard.” I replied.

The ranger scribbled something down and thanked me. Maybe not the answer she wanted but for me it was the truth. My backyard is the most beautiful place in the world  because it is home. It holds me in its arms and give me peace like no other place on earth. I’m safe there. I love traveling but  going  home is pretty wonderful, too. A few more days  north in the Canadian Rockies and then homeward bound.

I met Jack and Henny back at the campgrounds.  They were from the Netherlands and invited me to  hike with them the next day to The Tea House on top of one of the mountains. I thanked them and we arranged to meet in the morning.

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I thought about  how much the kindness of strangers had helped my dreams come true this summer, wonderful people who with simple gestures took the fear out of my journey. It is a good world. Yes, there are curt people who don’t take the time to look into the warmth of others’ hearts. I discovered that I was more likely to find this attitude in places of conspicuous consumption, where objects are more important than people.

Our smiles, kind words, open postures, helpfulness, non threatening questions, and genuine interest in people have a ripple effect on our immediate environment and the world.

Another great day. My heart is smiling.

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70/7000-Overcoming The Trans Canada Highway

Day 43-August 6, 2001

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Today I got ready to move on.  I had the coupon for a free three nights stay in a condo in Banff but when I called the place I was told they were all filled up. Darn! I should of called earlier but I had no I idea when I would arrive.  Serendipity is the theme of this trip.  Oh,well.

I felt freezing coming on. I  was considering changing course and not going into Canada.  I was afraid of the mountains, the unknown, and The Trans Canada Highway!

I used to have my second graders play a game called “Freeze or Hide”. It was a game of tag in which a “fox” would try to capture “rabbits”. The rabbits had two safety choices, hiding by standing in a space within a hoop on the ground or freezing, standing perfectly still.  In life, I had learned to freeze emotionally.  Having had  a bad childhood and an even  worse marriage, I sometimes relied on numbness to survive. But freezing doesn’t solve anything because nothing gets done and, therefore, nothing gets better.

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I wanted to change myself on this trip and become a better me.  I had to think, so……..

(1)I did some research. Got good directions. Looked at alternatives routes and various approaches.

(2) Broke the whole thing into steps. One stretch of highway at a time.

(3) Knew I  was done with sights in Glacier. Needed something different.

(4) Looked at the positives of the upcoming situation. Why was it all worth stretching myself a bit? Answer: I wanted to see the unique wildlife in The Canadian Rockies.

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(My journal for this trip!)

 

 

 

(5) Called up my faith that told me everything would be okay.

(6) Reminded myself of my purpose, to take this trip and maybe someday write about it.

And then I recalled the things I had read on this trip. Every time an individual has a positive victory, an accomplishment, a move in the right direction, it is a win for everyone.

My menopausal odyssey continues, ever onward and upward. I’m going to do it! 70 days or bust!

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70 Days, 7000 Miles-Days 29, 30, and 31

July 23, 24, 25, 2001

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My next stop was Ennis, Montana on the Madison River and a RV campgrounds.  I got a campsite that was a treeless patch of gravel with a picnic table. I tried to put up my “cabana” ( an open tent top to cover the picnic table) but it was too windy.  I did get an invitation to go to a party in one of the large RVs but I was more interested in going fishing.  I had seen a beautiful blue fishing shirt in one of the fly shops and sternly told myself  I couldn’t buy it unless I actually caught a fish in the Madison River. Anything less just wouldn’t be right.

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After I ate some dinner, I headed out on the river. I caught a fish right away but the hook was deep down in his throat.  I tried and tried to get it out and soon the poor fish was bleeding in my hand. When I put him in the water he just floated away on top.  I love nature and my destructive act made me feel bad. If a person takes the time to really analyze the sport of  catch and release fly fishing it can broken down into three steps. (1) Catch the fish. (2) Scare the bajeesoms out of it. (3) Put it back in the water so it can be caught and scared again.  Struggling with my conscience, I vowed to be more careful  in the future and never kill a trout again.

Fishing is a lot like gambling in a casino, you don’t want to stop until you get a hit. The sun was going down and I knew the diminishing light was in my favor.   As it got  darker and darker, I  became obsessed with the periwinkle fishing shirt..  Finally something took the fly and I reeled it in. It had to be the smallest trout in the world, two inches long. But it was a trout and it counted. I could get my shirt!

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I was told the next morning I had missed the RV party.  Will people in expensive RVs with large cars in tow ever understand the heart of a fly fishing woman? I apologized and found another campsite with trees. I met some cross country bicyclers there. They were amazing. They traveled thousands of miles and then flew themselves and their bikes back to where they started. It made me realize that if I told people I was traveling cross country I needed to clearly explain that I was doing it by minivan. Big difference!

 

 

 

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.