Home is a Warm Bed

I made it back to Minnesota and to my parent’s house safe and sound. I’m positive Izzy is happy about not being on the road anymore. The water pump is threatening to give out and Thelma leaks coolant when she is moved. It is sad woe, but I’ve decided to sell her. She’s cost me all of my money and I don’t want to be stuck with no way to support myself. Actually, if I could magically get a pretty penny for her I would go back out and finish my journey in my car and just camp. I hadn’t intended on sleeping in a tent this whole climb, but I’ve become more at peace with it.

When I was on the road I missed home terribly…and when I say home, I just mean Minnesota. I don’t have a home. That’s a reality that’s been a hard swallow. I wish I could just find a job – a career, a place that wants me. It is an odd and lonely feeling, not being wanted. Not having a purpose. I am lost in the fog and unnoticed by anyone. I hate it. I don’t know if any the decisions I’m making are the right one, if any of the positions I apply for are the right one, if any of the places I visit are the right one. I wish I could be a travel writer, a real one, professional, with business cards and an income…not just keeping a blog that some people read sometimes.

But I am only a fair writer. Another fact I must face. And, while this bout of sadness will pass, it is a reason that has put me on a roller coaster of emotions – facing that I am only just okay. Average. With no real specialties. A Master of English with nothing to show for it, but a small mound of debt.

I can fool myself, though. If I can get my losses back I tell myself I will go East instead of West, to the New England states. …And then I tell myself I will finish my adventure. Skip the filler and just get to Oregon…my father and I talked for many hours last night of the places he has lived and where his family has gone. My father lived in Astoria, OR when he was very young and had an aunt and uncle there as well. The uncle is long-resting peacefully in Saint Cloud, MN (the hub of our family’s existence) and the aunt is far away from her love in Astoria. Buried by a second husband who didn’t care enough to give her a marker. Her name was Theresa, a name I’ve been whispered should have been mine, and it would be nice to pay a visit to a woman, I have been told, was very kind, humble, and beautiful.

This is a long rant on being lost in the world, and I do apologize, but I wish I could see it all. Tickets go on sale for ‘Hamlet’ at the Barbican in London’s West Side next week. My favorite actor, Benedict Cumberbatch is playing as Hamlet and I was going to use that play as an excuse to visit London and visit an entirely new country for the first time. It performs from August-October 2015. Truthfully, I wanted to be in London for my 30th birthday – February 1st. Six months from now I’ll be 30. I suppose that’s been another reason for my sadness. At 30 the expectations I have had for myself have not been met. I’m not living my happily ever after. I haven’t found my Mister Darcey, I don’t have a home, a career, any children. I’m not spending my summers on the French Riviera and winters skiing the mountains…I’ve never skied…I do have two degrees, I am healthy, I have lots of family who love me and are supportive, I have much to stay positive about, but it doesn’t change I haven’t accomplished what I set out to accomplish by the time I was 30. I did leave my horrid job and move away from that wretched town I spent so many years in. I am glad for that. I just expected to have stayed far away, heh. It will come though, it will come, I just have a hard time being patient.

Until that day I will keep applying for jobs and keep studying my atlas preparing for when the time comes I can be on the road again.

Chin up!



Oh, and just so you know, I was told without any hesitation and full confidence Thelma could have made it over the mountains no problem. Just carry a gas can, just in case.

Sheridan, WY, three days and still here…

Peter D was a kind, generous, old man hard of hearing with a great big fondness for dogs. He came over often with treats for Izzy and thoughts of what Thelma’s problem could be. Monday morning I was up early and he had already been running around town trying to find a place to bring the van. I had called the dealership who could work on her Tuesday, which would have been fine…I guess, but Peter D said Matt down at Midas could get her in today. I remembered Ted’s Towing telling me NOT to go to Midas – they’re expensive – but I really wanted to get back on the road so agreed. Wasn’t able to get a shower in and Adam was already there to pick me up. We went to Midas and there I sat all morning waiting for me to come back and tell me Thelma……


……………had no gas. The gauge had become even more incorrect, probably with the climb and the load I was carrying. I had to give them $100 to tell me that, yup. I told them that should have just been a courtesy and gotten me on my way. I left, angry, and suddenly Thelma magically did drive right. She had a nasty vibration that was like going over really deep rumble strips and it wasn’t correcting itself. I called Midas back and asked them what they did. Matt was defensive and said they didn’t touch anything that could effect that. I turned around and came back to his shop in hopes it would be a quick fix.

That was Monday. It’s now Wednesday and apparently my driveline is bad. Now that the joints have been replaced, I made a special trip to Billings for Matt to have it looked at by a driveline specialist, he’s called Ford, the top tranny guy in town, and a metallurgic man, they all THINK the problem is the shaft in the yolk is bent, how it got bent is beyond me because the yolk itself, nor any part of the line shows signs of damage. Fingers crossed they’ll finally have her done today. I have sat in Midas from open to close for two days, we’ll be going on the third. This shouldn’t have been this complicated. They’ve already gotten $100 from me, the current bill for this repair is at $274, but I know it’s gone up because the drive shaft is being straightened. For every $100 is a week of staying places along my trip. He’s already taken over 3 1/2 weeks away from me. The rest of my money was being saved for a place to move to; I don’t want to be dipping into that. It’s time to cut my losses, turn around, and go home.

Home. I don’t have a home. Turn around and stay with my parents.

I was so looking forward to Washington and Oregon. Sleeping on the beach, watching the whales, trying new foods, seeing new faces, being by the ocean. I love the ocean so. I miss it when I’m away. That was where all of my hunting and this blog was really going to take off. The drive there was just supposed to be a few days of fun-filler. I couldn’t even get to the main reason of this trip. I have $500 left, not enough to get to Oregon and stay, so it’s time to go home.

Time to go home.

I’ve been missing Minnesota, but I really did want to try living somewhere I’ve never been. I didn’t hardly make it anywhere. I could have been on the coast by now if everything would have worked as planned. I guess nothing ever goes according to plan – especially mine.

Switchback Mountains, Well, What Now?

The drive to Wyoming was BEAUTIFUL! The grass, blue. The mountains, bluer. I could see snow atop them! I could see snow! In July! I was excited to get to the top and walk in snow with sandals and shorts knowing it was 98 degrees below. I think I said a lower temperature in the video, but later learned it was 98 degrees. …you’re the sunshine after the rain, you’re the cure against my fear and my pain, ’cause I’m losing my mind when you’re not around, it’s all, it’s all, it’s all because of you… ahem, flash back to the 90s, 98 Degrees song…whatever happened to them anyway?


We got off hwy 90 and onto 14 to get to Bighorn National Forest – where I was to spend the night. I didn’t know I was going to have to climb any mountains to get there; everything I read about Bighorn said it was at the foothills of the mountains. I guess they meant on the other side? According to the gauge (which is broken, by the way) I had a half tank of gas. We slowly ascended into the Switchback Mountains, winding, climbing, at 35mph in a two lane road with barely a shoulder. It was hot, there was no shade, and Thelma was feeling it. Passed one overlook, passed another, must climb more, but she’s losing power, then, nothing. I coasted as far over to a shoulder as I could before she stopped dead. Turned the key, she struggled to start, but started nonetheless, a few feet more, aaaaaaaand…..nothing. Dead. Thelma wouldn’t start again. Mid-mountain, steep hill, two lane road, coming up to a curve where cars couldn’t see oncoming cars. I didn’t know what to do! I was in a dangerous spot, it was so hot I could have cooked an egg on the van…actually, I had eggs, I should have, Izzy was looking lethargic, and I couldn’t get Thelma to budge. I just wanted her to start up enough so I could pull her around and coast back down the mountain. I didn’t understand what happened to cause her to do that. She didn’t overheat, I had gas, oil, she was doing fine.

I called AAA and asked for a tow. For a second time Thelma was to be towed to safety. While on the phone a Subaru pulled over and out popped a man and woman asking if I needed help. So many people had passed me, but they opted to stop and help. The man said he could go home, get his truck, and pull me off the mountain. I thought that was amazing! We were ten or more miles away from the nearest town and he was willing to delay wherever he was going to help me. In the end we decided I would just wait for the tow truck. It would take the same amount of time to get here, AAA was paying for it, and this guy didn’t have to delay his trip any further. He helped me get Thelma down to one of the overlooks and out of harms way and was off. He wouldn’t give me his name, but he was my greatest hero that day. He said, “That’s what we do in Wyoming!” and talked about all the vehicles he had pulled off the mountains.

An hour later a man named Adam from Ted’s Towing camp up with his flat bed. THAT even struggled up the mountain, but it at least made it. He was also very kind and I did whatever I could to help make lifting Thelma easier.

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He was nice about letting Izzy ride with and gave me peace of mind by giving me the name of these mountains, the Switchbacks, and explaining they were the third steepest, at a 10 grade, in the Rockies. Should have just stayed on I-90 and went to Billings instead. The mountain there is at a grade 6.

Now, keep in mind, it’s Sunday, which means there’s no auto shops open. It was nearing evening too. We stopped at Firestone, the only place open, and the man said, while he could have it worked on tomorrow, he didn’t feel comfortable doing it. In the end, after Adam had driven Izzy, Thelma, and I all over, in his truck with no A/C, we agreed to drop me off at the local RV park – Peter D’s – for the night. Adam said he would pick me up in the morning and bring me to a repair shop.


When You Find Your Dream RV Park

The Badlands really was a bust for me. I know it’s a beautiful place, truly unique, but for me it was a hot, dead, wasteland…and maybe mostly that’s because I wasn’t able to use the generator…or make coffee in the morning. I WAS excited for the RV park/campground outside Keystone, SD. Spokane Creek Cabins and Campground. The drive there was pretty intense – winding, hilly roads through the Black Hills. I see why so many motorcyclists were on this road! The downside to Spokane Creek was no reception and poor internet, but the splendor of the area, friendliness of the staff and other guests far outweighed lacking reception. The park is located in sort of a valley of the Black Hills. There’s plenty of rocky areas to climb for the beginner and advanced hikers, a lovely creek the kids were splashing around in and racing little boats down, a pool, mini golf, a small gas station, and restaurant/convenience store/gift shop that has surprisingly very good pizza. Actually, I didn’t so much mind being able to completely relax without the distraction of texting and Facebook. I heard plenty of parents cheer not having the internet because their kids were outside playing with the other kids. I intended on staying there only a night, but extended it to two. It was just so, peaceful. In comparison to my night in the Badlands, this was a complete 180 in enjoyment and comfort.



Spokane Creek is the perfect place to stay for a family vacation. There were several families in their big fancy RVs and campers (okay, okay, there were popups and tenters too. I was the only van… -_-). What I thought was especially cute was the kids on the playground – complete strangers to one another, but they were planning games together for later and inviting one another over to their sites for bonfires and s’mores. It was funny, this girl was planning whatever game with two kids swinging and when she went running back to her site she turned around suddenly and yelled back, “by the way, my name is” so-and-so. It made me think of Megan and camping with her family in Park Falls, Wisconsin. Megan was my childhood friend, next door neighbor, and someone that, for a very long time, I thought of as a sister. She was my best friend and I took care of her.

Megan died when she was sixteen in a messy car accident. Her sister and boyfriend, also a good friend of mine, were in the car with her and didn’t survive either. This was twelve years ago and even though so much time has passed I find myself still missing her. The year before her death she invited me to camp with her and her family – RV and popup camping, that is. Nothing rugged here. Had to bathe in the lake, though. I met her grandparents (coolest grandparents ever! So much junk food, mmm), cousins, aunts, and uncles. We played tag and hide and seek with her little cousins, swam, and hiked solely to find bars on her phone (yes, in 2001, at age 15, Megan had a cell phone…I didn’t get a cell phone until I moved out of my parents house at age 20…) to call Chris, her boyfriend, and ask him if so-and-so liked me back. I tried pigs feet for the first time there (grandparents brought them, not bad actually), and learned how to make a dessert pie with sandwich bread, fruit filling, and a camp fire. My parents never took the kids camping and the only kind I ever did up until this summer is tent in the backyard with the neighbor friends. This was Megan’s family’s summer tradition and they were kind enough to include me. I felt fully part of the family after that. So now, although I don’t think of Megan so much anymore, when I’m in these RV park/campgrounds, this memory returns and returns with a humbled smile. 

The first night at Spokane Creek there was a pretty crazy storm. Thunder, lightening, hail, and a nervous Izzy. Needless to say, we didn’t sleep much that night – Izzy was so scared I knew I was going to be staying up some time comforting her so turned the light on and watched The Little Mermaid. Oh yeah, on my trip I have brought many-a-Disney movies to watch. Even at twenty-nine a gal still needs to have her princesses with her! As the storm roared on I poked my head outside – I was across the creek from the tenters – and called out to see if anyone was getting rained out. Although it’s just a van I’m in it’s dry and there was still room. No one seemed to need the help and the next morning I didn’t hear of anyone sustaining any damage. It was a good conversation piece, especially with the owner, Darrell, whom I was able to meet while moving spots (had to go from site 24 to 29). I offered him some of the coffee I just made, but he wasn’t a fan of the flavored stuff. Why is it no one likes flavored coffee? I don’t like PLAIN coffee! Heehee!

I was lucky to stay another night because I met a really great family from Des Moines, Iowa – Kerri, her daughter, daughter’s friend, mother, and sister. I was getting ready in the bathroom when Kerri and the girls came in to take a shower. We talked and got to know one another while she showered (:P) and I was putting on makeup. When she got out of the shower she invited me up to their site later that night for s’mores. I’ve never been good at making friends – I’m shy so don’t often take advantage of opportunities to meet other people, but I wanted to join her and her family. I had already broken my first rule of not talking to strangers on this trip in the Badlands so might as well keep going! I spent the afternoon exploring Keystone, Custer, Mount Rushmore, and Crazy Horse. $11 to get into Rushmore and Crazy Horse! Eleven dollar pictures, is all!

The boys at Mount Rushmore
The boys at Mount Rushmore

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I didn’t want to show up to Kerri’s camper empty-handed so I stopped and picked up soda and watermelon to pass. That’s a good thing to have ’round a campfire, right? I thought so. No one had any because they had just finished eating, but there were beers, chocolate, and marshmallows to pass – which turned out to be my dinner. Kerri’s family was amazing. The girls were hilarious! They showed me videos they took of terrorizing their gramma when they went to the bear exhibit near Rapid City. I felt like I was part of the family – I too like terrorizing my mom for a chuckle with things like spiders and walking out on the ice. Her mother, sister, and I also talked about our travels – they come from South Carolina and are also putzing around the country. They offered good advice and information about Work and Stays – finding RV parks or National Parks that were looking for campers to work for a week or more in exchange for staying for free and possibly a few extra bucks. In fact, the park we were at was doing that with a few RVs. I inquired about it on my way out the next day and asked for them to call if they wanted extra help. I would definitely go back to that place!

Kerri came by the next morning to say goodbye and remind me about asking about working and staying. We exchanged contact information and I look forward to seeing her on Facebook soon. I wanted to stay at Spokane Creek longer, but I was excited for my next stop, Bighorn National Forest and to see Wyoming for the first time!

A Bit of the Bad Lands

Yes, Bad. Time had come to move on West. Typical drive across South Dakota. Made a quickie in Mitchell to see the Corn Palace. A place I have seen as a child, but don’t possess the memories for. To my surprise this is what I found:

The Corn Palace as of July 2014. Nothing but a big ol' gymnasium!
The Corn Palace as of July 2014. Nothing but a big ol’ gymnasium!

Well, what a bust, but no matter, it wasn’t the focal point of today’s trip. I enjoyed so much driving across South Dakota. I enjoyed being part of the other RVs and campers, popups, A, B, C class. I felt like I was part of the group. But really, I wasn’t. I have an old van. It doesn’t have a sink, bathroom, a stove, or rear A/C. You can’t even stand in it. I felt like how motorcyclists feel when they see another motorcyclist – they do that subtle downward wave to acknowledge one another when passing. I wish RVs had that. That would be cool. I want that. Can we start doing that? What would the gesture be? One day I hope to be a REAL RVer, For now, to everyone else I am just another vehicle, but today I smiled and waved at every RV that came my way.

The Badlands are AMAZING! But so HOT! I’ve never seen a desert, but I felt like I was in one.

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Thelma was not enjoying herself and I took too much time stopping and taking pictures. It was 4pm when I got there and next thing I knew it was nearing 8 and I still hadn’t hunkered down in a spot. The free site to camp in the Badlands is Sage Creek. IT IS IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE! I had fumes for gas, and trudging down a windy dirt road. I saw a sign saying Wall, SD was 10 miles away so I raced into town to fill my tank. I definitely didn’t want to be stranded in the Bad Lands. 

Wall is a funny town and filled with tourists. Thing about traveling with a dog is you can’t visit many shops. I raced through Wall Drug, got my gas and Izzy and I were back on the road.

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The heat made me discouraged about sleeping in the Badlands. I sought places to stay in town, but couldn’t get myself to spend the money. I wanted to be in the Badlands because I read Sage Creek boasts spectacular views of the stars and the possibility of sleeping among the bison. This particular night it had none of that. I felt uncomfortable being so off the grid…and grateful for a pit toilet.

I bought a generator specifically to use for this night. It didn’t work!! Ahhhh, so hot!!! There were two RVs in Sage Creek. While I was apprehensive about talking to strangers, can’t trust anyone on the road they say, I walked up to the biggest RV there. I figure, RV owners must know a thing or two about generators. This idea was given to me by my good friend and pseudo mother, Karen. “Just go ask for help,” she said. So I did. I didn’t get his name, but he and his wife were from Missouri, had the best accent, great sense of humor, and were true characters. Maybe in their 50s or 60s, they hit the road to get away from the stresses of family, and wound up in the Badlands. What luck! The silliest thing about meeting them, and silly for me because this is something I rarely have been around, the man said, before agreeing to come over and fix my generator, he “Need me a weeeeed,” and he and his wife took a hit off a joint. I didn’t understand at first so started walking away and he said, “Now just a minute, Ma, pass it to her.” I politely declined. They chuckled, and we left to my site. This guy was awesome. A tinkerer and possibly part of the biker variety what with his cut off sleeves, bandana, chops, and mopy hair. He had no sensor for swear words and had a thing or two to say about Menards, where I bought the generator. With a magic touch it worked and Thelma was finally able to cool down.

It was met several minutes later with disgruntled campers…of course. So I turned her off and soon learned why they wanted the silence – you could hear the coyotes in the distance. 

I didn’t see any Bison.


Saw a goat. Didn’t sleep; too warm. And happy to be out of the wilderness and headed to an RV park and campground with SHOWERS for the next night. The Badlands were amazing, but great just for visiting a few hours. I’m just not wildman enough to spend another night there. 😛