On my first trip to Montana I looked for it but missed it. Not this past weekend. The story goes that this tree, a Limber Pine, just outside of the town on Burmis, died in the 70s after living some 600 to 750 years. Limber Pines are among the longest lasting trees in Alberta. After it died it stayed in its spot until it was blown over in 1998 by strong winds. The residents of Burmis did not want to keep it in pieces on the ground, and, with help of Alberta Culture, Historic Sites, put the tree back together with the use of stainless steel rods and brackets. Then vandals cut off a branch in 2004, but residents again fixed it, using glue and a prop pole this time. When a new Highway 3 was built, residents rallied successfully and the road was built around the heritage site that the tree has become. A Wikipedia entry closes with the line "The tree remains as the sole point of interest in the once prosperous town of Burmis." I love this story and was glad I caught the tree the second time around.
After catching the Burmis Tree, sole point of interest, another trip to Montana where I fell even more in love with the big skies and wide open spaces.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter
photo credit sasint, from Pixabay
In Calgary, week 3. Joined the Calgary YMCA last week and am loving the classes; I am sore as hell, but I enjoy being around people, talking to people, getting to know a few people, and I enjoy getting fit and strong again after a break. I make small talk with everyone at the Y, and tell everyone how new I am to Calgary and Alberta. And to the cold. This morning I was at the coffee shop, working, my usual morning hangout, and one of the instructors of a class I attended came up to me to say hi. We chatted for a while, and as I walked over to the Y for my next class I thought about how even now that I travel, having a sense of community is good. In Nevada it was Frankie, in Langley it was Uli and Joan and Brian, here it is the coffee shop early morning crew and the Y instructors and members. I guess even nomads need to make and feel community from time to time.
Two weeks in Calgary and my days have started to feel long and lonely. The sun rises late and sets early, so the days are dark too. And cold. But today I took the truck and went for a drive, felt good to be on the road again and feel free. Horseshoe Canyon, my destination, turned out to be closed, and instead I drove through the badlands. The landscapes here are incredible; wheat fields as far as the eye can see and massive skies. Gorgeous. I did not find the "scenic" dinosaur drive scenic, so I drove back to Drumheller, bought a single beer, and, as a good ol' redneck Albertan, parked the truck on a dirt road, and drank the beer while, obviously, listening to blue grass. I did not get to where I had set out to go, but, as the song went, it was good enough.
On our way to Montana we drove one car behind you. I remember it as if it happened in slow motion; the oncoming small white car drifting into your lane, as if trying to make a left hand turn. My friend screamed in disbelief and then there was the roar of impact and your truck was in the air. You landed in the ditch, in an odd V-shape. Your engine was on the road, your wheels had come off. Brake fluid and diesel covered the road. I called 911, my voice trembling. I believed in that moment that you were either dead or very close to it. My friend took over the call to give the dispatcher the coordinates of the scene, and he was asked to ask you your age. You lifted your head off the steering wheel and whispered 18 without opening your eyes. Your truck was old, no airbags, and we could see that you had broken your nose and you were also bleeding from your head and your mouth. Your legs were trapped in the crumpled up cab. First responders arrived. We made a witness statement and then we left.
I have not been able to shake seeing the violence of the impact, the vision of your truck flying through the air and crashing into the ditch, seeing you rest your bleeding forehead on the steering wheel as you waited for help, de guy who had been driving right behind you and in front of us talking to you through the broken window. The hospitals I called were unable to tell me anything about you or where you are, but tonight the RCMP called me back. You will be okay. I sent you the On the Rocks flower arrangement in this photo. The florist was touched by your story and went out of her way to find you in the hospital. Today it will be delivered. I hope that you like it and that knowing that there are people out there, strangers, who are rooting for you, brightens your day a little...
photo credit Funky Petals @ http://funkypetals.com/
Looking back on the first two and a half months of solo travels… There have been funny experiences, Uli and beer for example, Joan and Brian also. There were fascinating experiences, park “Management” for example (below for stories on that). There were awe inspiring experiences too, most notably the night skies at Lake Mead, for which I turned my biological clock upside down to admire the night sky each night for a few hours. The first night I told everyone about it, and a good friend texted me back saying, "How nice that you can enjoy the little things in life!" I thought, "This is not little!" "This is awe inspiring!" A good friend told me that under those skies I would find God. I did not find God but one night, ironically as I was out in the night not because of the stars and the moon per se but because Gary was sick, a profound sense of gratitude for it all washed over me. I wrote a separate story about that experience alone. There were terrifying experiences also, most notably to do with guns. One lady directly threatened Gary, after which she lifted her shirt to reveal a hand gun tucked away in an overstretched waste band. There were heart warming experiences too. My friendship with Frankie, an army vet turned student, who became an ally for me and on whom I could rely on for a beer at the end of the day, a chat, or to share a worry or concern. The ladies at the animal hospital who hugged me when I cried as I left Gary there.
Overall though, my first leg of solo travels has been good. Good is a boring word to sum up the wide variety of experiences this first leg has held, but I can't think of a better one...
photo credit Free-Phots, from Pixiebay
This was during one of the three nights when I was up with Gary most of the night, when he was so sick. The night sky was on full display, stars and a near full moon, and I know you think I will see much better, but to me these were the most beautiful night skies I have seen in my life so far. That night I did not find God as you predicted, but (ironically as I was cleaning poop and vomit all night) a sense of gratitude washed over me. For many things but especially for you. I thought about what an incredible friend you are for me, how I can always rely on you, and how you are always there for me. You have also opened so many doors for me, opened opportunities that I would never have considered before you became a part of my life, and during that night I just felt, and still feel, so thankful that our paths crossed. In the early hours of the morning I thought about all that a lot, and I don’t think I tell you often enough, so just wanted to tell you this story and let you know how much I appreciate you. I am really glad that you are part of my life and that I am part of yours.
photo credit FlyingPete, from Morguefile
Life in southern Nevada is quiet and structured. We walk or jog in the very early hours of the morning to avoid the heat--the temperatures typically reach 48, 49 degrees Celsius mid-day--then we dip into Lake Mead for a swim. After that coffee and breakfast and after that I work. The walk/swim routine is repeated at night. The sun sets early here, around 6:00pm and after that we go for another walk and swim. Then we sit out as the stars and moon come out on full display. These are the most incredible skies, the most beautiful skies I have seen in my life, and here I sit up every night to soak it in. I befriended Frankie earlier on in this area, he is a vet who now is a full time student. We talk academics, we have a beer at the end of the day, and we go for picnics (since I cannot leave Gary alone, we do not eat at restaurants). Once in a while I chat with other neighbours, never pass up the chance to talk with Dutch tourists who typically seem unfazed by my unique and hybrid language, a seamless mix between Dutch and English phrases, and I get the occasional invite for an end of day drink, which I always accept. People tell me about other interesting places to go, we compare notes about routes, and we make small talk. Content to live life quietly in this beautiful and windy and dry place with the most gorgeous night skies, I keep extending my stay. Until Gary got so sick that he landed in hospital...
Gary and I are staying in an RV park in Nevada with an awesome dog park (it has a parkour for dogs! more on that later). At the end of the day, an older couple with two dogs park in front of us. The woman takes her (overweight) dogs to the dog park (not for the parkour, Gary and I seem to be the only ones who do, to the amusement of a largely German audience. But more on that later) and Gary does not like those dogs. As she walks by, Gary strains at his leash and barks. The woman stops in her tracks and glares at me. I apologize for Gary’s temper; "So sorry. Gary loves people but only some dogs." (I often joke that I am the opposite; I love all dogs but only some people.) That night, she walks over to the dog park again, presumably for the dogs’ night-time poop and as she passes by, she stops and warns me, “I do not like your dog. If he comes anywhere close to me or my dogs I will kill him.” She then pulls up her shirt to show a sagging white belly and part of a handgun that is tucked away in her waistband.
photo credit stevepb, from Pixabay
photo credit Emslichter, Pixabay
Yesterday, driving toward a destination too far and feeling too tired to make it there, I, late afternoon, went to Durkee Oregon, as Google said in this town was the campground nearest to me. I took the exit and entered the creepiest town I have ever seen. Empty houses with broken windows, a dilapidating little wooden church, abandoned structures everywhere with, oddly, the odd person walking around. My phone being dead and not knowing exactly where this campground was, I asked a guy on the side of the road. Dale was his name. He seemed confused when I asked about a campground, but after thinking it through he said; “Oh, there’s the trailer park where a few people stay.” At this point I recalled that the park had no website but a Facebook page that showed one photo: a cement structure. That should have been a clue. Dale went on to explain how difficult and treacherous this park was to get to and that it had no hook ups; permanent residents only, but perhaps his buddy who owned it would let me stay there for the night. Then Dale suggested, “You can stay behind the gas station!” “Pick a shady spot. I take care of the property. No one there but the odd trucker.” Turned out the gas station was also no more. Just the structure was left. I parked in the shade of an apple tree and finished a work project, then phoned my best friend for advice. To stay or to leave. He hypothesized that perhaps Dale might have some moonshine later that night and tell his buddies all about his new and shaggable Dutch friend who is parked behind what’s left of the gas station, and so that was a no. Tired but onward and upward we went...
Gerda & Gary
Gerda is a scholar, academic editor, and writer. Gary was homeless in Nevada, but is now the new man in Gerda's life.