Sunday, November 12, 2017

All Good Things Must End

I don't know who said that, but they are wrong. Sure, we are done with this life's dream RV adventure. But now we have other good things to hope to build and create. That aside, I think it is fitting to add some reflections about our two year and four month full time living on the road in and across the locales and attractions of this astounding country in which we live.
I will try to stay chronological, but I do have a tendency to wander...
We left St Helena, CA in late June, 2015. We had decided to stay for about 10 days in camp at Napa to say goodbye to The Valley and enjoy the budding Napa City's restaurant scene. From our camp we were able to see the tops of  a local 4th fireworks show. That was fun. From there, we headed up to Graeagle in the Sierra to gather with California family and friends for a formal goodbye. I urge anyone to spend some summertime around Graeagle. A sensational part of the Sierra. Then it was over the hills to head down the eastern base of the Sierras on highway 395. Probably my favorite American highway. Go do that, too.
Then we hit Las Vegas, our entry route into the national wonder of southern Utah. we stayed for 5 days and it hit 112 degrees while we were there. We had added an optional second rooftop air conditioner to our Vilia, (our 5th wheel), when we purchased it and we were able to stay comfortable indoors in that heat. That gave us a "whew, we can do this".  From there it was on to the unimaginable grandeur of  southern Utah.  Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef...the landscape is surreal and we spent an entire month in awe. And also in love with our country, a theme for our trip that began here. We had moments of 20 minutes - 45 minutes amongst the throng of visitors at the national parks when we heard no english being spoken. Think of any civilized nation in this world and they are coming to see our amazing national parks. We loved the feeling of sharing.
From there, we wandered our way to Big Bend National Park in far down southwest Texas. This looks like no part of Texas I had ever visited in my business travels. It is a grand cowboy landscape on land that borders Mexico on the Rio Grande. At one bend I was able to pick up a rock and throw it across the river into Mexico, something that young boy still inside me had to do. There, we went to nearby Terlingua, TX and the Starlight Theatre. This is a one time, old time stone walled building that had its roof burn off many years ago, yet continued to show movies afterward hence the name today. They put a roof back on and it is one of the finest bars I have ever been to. Every guy in there looked like Willie Nelson, and every damn one of them was genuine. I loved America yet again.
We then headed up and over to southern Arizona to spend a warm winter in the desert. Only, we learned the desert fluctuates between very pleasant temps and, whoa, is it cold, temps. We were snowed upon and had our outside water supply hose freeze once also. But we also witnessed some of the most intense, monumental sunsets we had ever seen. Grandiose full sky insane orange then purple. America.
In the spring we worked our way up western Colorado, heading to Wyoming. I'm so loving our country by now I am picking up every local newspaper I can, (what's going on?), drinking local roasted coffee, (this is everywhere across our land) and sampling a local brewed beer or two, (also everywhere across this land).
We get to a settle in for a two week destination, the Grand Tetons. Consider the picture and join me in saying "I love this country".
This pic is from a short walk from our campsite and every day there was as good or better. From there we went to Yellowstone for three weeks. You spend three weeks in Yellowstone and you see  a grizzly catch a fish from a riverside, you see a mother black bear teaching her two cubs how to scratch off bark on fallen trees to seek the insect goodies beneath, you see a wolf trotting beside the road at 6 AM in the fog, you see traffic held up as a group of bison let you know they have a right to use the bridge to get over the river too and you just see Nature in a majesty beyond words.
As we moved on we just had to stay a bit in Cody, Wyoming. Gather a flavor of our history of rodeo and check in on Buffalo Bill who was the West's best ever salesman. It was there that Cathy had gone to the store in our sizable tow machine pickup truck and after parking was greeted by a local fellow in round up the cattle garb with the compliment, "You handle that big truck pretty well little lady". She took it rightly as would I, had I been there. I love America.
Part of the great joy of our journey was reconnecting with old friends and we did plenty of that when we returned to Colorado and Denver and the front range. We had lived there in the first 12 years of our marriage and the memories were and are huge. All of our metro areas have their problems and Denver is no exception but it is surely one of our most incredible cities. The setting, climate and mile high atmosphere all combine to make health and fitness a priority for so many of the population.
We left Denver to ultimately reach Florida for our next winter.
We headed into heartland, driving through our legendary plains in Kansas with a wonderful eye opening stop in Lawrence, a fantastic town with tracks from the old stage coach lines still seen about it.
Northern Arkansas surprised us with its hill and wooded beauty and then we hit Alabama. Early on in our routing I had noted we would be roaming through Bama in football season. We were able to secure tickets to a game, (months before), and attended a Crimson Tide home game. What is today's thing for Oh My Gracious?....OMG? That is it. OMG. We were so obviously foreigners, but we had folks inviting us to come over for a beverage, chatting us up, thanking us for thinking of them. I had my picture taken with two Bama cheerleaders wearing enough makeup that it may have weighed more than I. We were entertained by a thirteen strong tuba section of the school marching band during this pre game tailgating frenzy. Alabama beat poor Miss State by something like 40 points.
It was all too rich and all too wonderfully America.
From there we did this and that and made our way to the bottom of Florida for what turned out to be a sweetly warm winter. We were immersed in the culture of "snowbirds" and were happy to be part. It is a group of northern folk, with many Canadians included, that descend on Florida to escape the hard times of the cold season. Florida is used to, and well equipped for this annual invasion which is good, because they asked for it, going back starting years ago. Florida is another part of  loving America. It is clearly not Minnesota, but we are all connected, right?
As spring approached we wandered our way north. Our final leg was to be a summer spent in Maine.
On that wander, we stopped in Atlanta to see friends and family there. We went to the excellent Atlanta Aquarium and happened to be there amidst a few school outings. I was standing within the tunnel under the huge "fish tank" and a whale shark cruised by overhead. I hear a young female voice say something about awesome and see two school friends looking up, one in arab dress one a black american, holding hands. Humbly I tell you, I teared up and thought about my love for this country.
I never would have experienced that or all else here, had we just stayed home.
We spent our last RV summer in Maine, as different from California as it is from southwest Texas as it is from Kansas but still America and purely defined in its own way.
My biggest takeaway from this adventure, our Vilia Adventure? We have been privileged to have lived across the USA, not visited, lived. We had our home of the time with us. We'd wake up each morning at home, go to bed each night at home no matter where we were.  We watched the local news and saw, with that, what our communities were dealing with of the moment, the community outreach to a family whose house burned, a school kid selling lemonade to help hurricane victims
a thousand miles away, a local car dealer donating a car to a community church after theirs was vandalized.  It never stopped along our way.
We started out calling this Vilia Adventures, after a neighbor in my youth, an early embracer of the RV life who named their rig Vilia. Vilia is from a Wagner operetta, where she is the Witch of the Woods.
We could rename this, "Our Greatest Journey", as it became so much more than a vacation of  just sightseeing. I love this great land I was born into more than ever.