Travels 10: The Good, The Sad and the Ugly

Venus goddess of love that you are.  Surely the things I ask can’t be too great a task.

–Frankie Avalon

I’ve just walked to the hedge of cedars and watched the sunset.  As usual, Venus is the evening star…leading us westward…like something Biblical.  Our clocks are set to Pacific Time.  We’ve crossed the Great Divide.  We’re camping for the final night in the center of Washington State, in the Columbia Basin (some might say The Palouse).  This is more prairie-like than much of what we drove through in Iowa and Nebraska.  There’s little out here.  Hardly even a grain silo.  It’s lonely and it’s empty.  At least for some people like us who drive, gas up and drive on.

In one sense, our journey is over.  But only the first half.  If you, reader, have enjoyed my posts, I’m happy.  If you didn’t, I’m not so happy.  What I’m really happy about now is getting out of the car for a week or so, or sleeping somewhere different from the tiny space we’ve been using.  No, it’s to hold my grandson, Elias…hug my daughter, Erin and embrace my son-in-law, Bob.  And not doing this after being picked up at the Sea-Tac Airport.  I also wanted to do this under my own steam as it were.

What did I see?  What did I learn?  What was the sum of my experiences thus far?  Remember, I still have to drive back home…more posts from different places.

I met people who didn’t care where you came from…they saw only fellow travelers.  I’ll always be grateful to the man who got us out of a serious jam (and I mean jam) in Stroudsburg, PA.  I felt somehow connected with a drifter only a few days along on the highway.  The wind on the plains blew me off my feet.  The rain fell like a monsoon in Valentine, Nebraska.  A pretty blue-eyed woman struck up a conservation in a town she probably never left, growing up in a house under trees that sheltered her from the intense heat and glare of the rolling prairie.  I was caught by an early winter snowstorm in Bozeman, MT and was forced to stay an extra night.  Next to a spa that had nine heated pools.  I simply had to spend hours in those pools waiting for the snow to stop.

I was locked out of the greatest National Parks of the west.  I couldn’t show Mariam Old Faithful.  The Grand Tetons.  The awesome National Forests…all closed due to the insane demands of the Tea Party.  (That was the ugly part…that was my karmic luck to be out here when the “Shutdown” happened.

Just today I met a young woman.  She ran the register at a gas station in the middle of a gentle pasture that went on for a thousand miles.  She was ebullient.  But she had many reasons not to be.  We spoke.  She had three children she can’t see.  She had been in three psychiatric institutes after three suicide attempts.  She had bad, really bad luck with men.  Yet, she laughed and smiled and spoke freely of her troubles.  (Her main man now was Jesus).  I’m not much of a praying guy, but I muttered a prayer for her continued joy in her otherwise joyless world.

Today, the last full day of driving, I saw three mounted cowboys a half-mile from the Interstate.  They were rounding up about fifty head of cattle.  If I ever come through these parts again, I hope their sons and daughters are still in the saddle.

I have no illusions about this trip.  It was too fast.  I didn’t see everything and talk to everyone.  And I didn’t do what a million others have done before me.  Sitting for hours in a car made my leg as painful as I can remember, but I would do it all over again.

This is one amazing, large and wonderful country I was lucky enough to be born in.  I’m not saying America is the fairest and most just land on the planet, but we’ve all tried, haven’t we?  Lewis & Clark wouldn’t know a Red State from a Blue State..but they had formidable courage to explore.

Let’s not stop exploring.  Let’s not lose sight of that Evening Star…the goddess of love.

Something of a photo gallery:

I’m no herpetologist, but I’m pretty sure this is a rattlesnake:


Some forgotten rancher broke sod with this:


Seen alongside the highway.  Lost?  Forgotten?  Thrown out?  The tiny photo on the right ear piece…the owner or a logo?


The obligatory sunset picture:


Happy Trails, friends…and now to watch a Grade B Cowboy Movie “Massacre Time.”

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