“Road Trip!!” Adventures in LauraLand, v2013, about to commence…

2 July 2013

In a few days, I’ll be embarking on yet another cross-country (well, most of the way…) trek from my home in New England to various points West, reaching, at minimum distance, Keystone and Custer State Park in South Dakota. With any luck, and some careful planning, I will be able to add at least a new state or two to the running tally of those I’ve visited in my lifetime. I’d like to get to Wyoming, Colorado, and a new-to-me section of Nebraska so I can finally see parts of the Oregon Trail. Originally, the plan also included some historic sites in the OKC area as well as return visits to 2 primary Laura sites: the Little House on the Prairie Museum (site of the Ingalls family’s “Indian Country” settlement near Independence, Kansas) and Bessie and Manly’s final home at Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, Missouri with one of my Laura friends.  But, as is de rigeur for my experience, Life is What Happens When You’re Making Other Plans.

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A little hiccup (okay, a really big one, but I’m trying to be cheerful here) in the health of my baby kibbie, a.k.a. Quinn, has necessitated a delay in my departure.  Quinn is a fighter, and still very kittenish for her 15 or so years, but, as a former stray, the unknowns of her early history make her a bit susceptible to various health problems, and she ended up in surgery on the day of my planned departure for the west.

Just prior to my departure for GCV&M Laura Ingalls Wilder Days, August 2012.

Just prior to my departure for GCV&M Laura Ingalls Wilder Days, August 2012.

Not being one to take pet care lightly, I elected to delay my trip by a week to give her time to get the healing process underway and make sure she’s improving before I hand her off to my very capable family for the next several weeks.  Plus, I like to snuggle her, and since I have the time off from work anyway, why not get a few more hours of QT with kitty while I do some of the reading I would otherwise do in a lonely hotel somewhere in Huskerdoo?

1880 Town, Midland, South Dakota.

1880 Town, Midland, South Dakota.

Price Tower Arts Center (Frank Lloyd Wright design) Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Price Tower Arts Center (Frank Lloyd Wright design) Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Besides, I’ve seen many of the states I’ll be trekking through before, and my mission on each trip is to experience something new and visit places I’ve always wanted to go.  I’ve seen a lot of states over the years, and have racked up a relatively impressive number (…of states visited…get your mind out of the gutter!) by some standards.

Hole in the Mountain, at the border between Minnesota and South Dakota, Highway 14.  This view is looking east, because the sky was prettier and this side of the sign was more legible for some reason.  Strange, I would think this would be the side where all those sweeping winds would scour the lettering flat!

Hole in the Mountain, at the border between Minnesota and South Dakota, Highway 14. This view is looking east, because the sky was prettier and this side of the sign was more legible for some reason. Strange, I would think this would be the side where all those sweeping winds would scour the lettering flat!

How many states have I been to?  Well, I’m not at 50, nor 40, nor even 35.  BUT, I’m working on it.  I’ve always enjoyed traveling, and take every opportunity to visit somewhere new.  Beginning in early childhood, when my parents took us to visit family in Upstate New York, or friends in Florida, travel has nearly always involved a roadtrip. By the time I had a driver’s license, I was planning when and where I’d go the minute I had my own car (which, in my family, meant when I had saved enough of my own earnings to buy and insure one!).  Almost deliberately, I chose a Toyota with a standard transmission so I would have to learn to drive a stick, which meant that, between classes and shifts at the grocery store, I was taking little Joey out for a lot of practice trips on back country roads through various counties in northern New Hampshire.  Almost immediately, I began to discover just how much I adored exploring rural countryside, and roadtrips of any distance were soon a way of life.

Somewhere near Mansfield, Missouri, 2011.

Somewhere near Mansfield, Missouri, 2011.

Over the years, I found ways to fit travel into my meager budget by combining missions.  A friend wants to go to her nephew’s birthday party 3 states away?  Road Trip!  My new favorite band will put me on the guest list at shows around the northeast if I promote them everywhere I go?  Road Trip!  My boss needs to get something delivered 100 miles away by 5 pm?  Road Trip!!!!!  Any excuse I could find.  Before I knew it, I’d racked up over half a million miles on various old beater cars: the Toyota, two VW Foxes, a Saab, and two Jettas.

Stormy Outhouse DeSmet ish 2011 DSCN2435

Are You Privy? Just behind the town house, east of De Smet, SD.

These days my mileage total is upwards of 850k, over 6 cars, in some 20 years. The newest car was 4 years old (but I kept it until a cargo van ended its life at age 12); all of the cars were at least a dozen years old when they retired, and all but one of the retirees registered well over 200,000 miles on the odometer.  The record holder for most miles in shortest time was Gretyl, acquired in May 2010 with 119k miles.  Twenty-one months and NINETY THOUSAND MILES later, while attempting to return from a Laura gig a few hours from home during a nasty ice storm, Gretyl, with her superior handling, spared my life but sacrificed her own.  The odometer read just over 209,000.  Something tells me she had a lot more miles in her, but the frame, although intact, would never be quite right again, and I couldn’t risk it. But, I was so impressed with her fortitude in my near-death experience that I went out and bought another Jetta just like her…

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My current Jetta, acquired last year, is a relative youngster, only 11 years old and just crested 150,000 last weekend.

Gretyl, on the LIW Historic Highway, Rt 14 West, Lake Benton, Minnesota. July 2011.

Gretyl, on the LIW Historic Highway, Rt 14 West, Lake Benton, Minnesota. July 2011.

Where have I been in all those miles?  Hmmm…well, some states I have only driven through a corner of, not even stopping to buy gas or eat a meal.  So, I will skip those.  If we count only places where I have at least gotten out of the car, looked around, eaten, or stayed overnight, the tally as of now is 30/50 States. That may not sound like much, but I can tell you I have spent about a year’s worth of days and nights traveling in the U.S., even though I have lived in the same state my entire life.

Wool Days at Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, Massachusetts, May 2011.

Wool Days at Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, Massachusetts, May 2011.

So, where have I done all this roaming?  All of New England, all of the Eastern seaboard, plus…Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri…30 states, plus Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario.

Porch of Almanzo Wilder's birthplace, Burke (near Malone), New York, 2011.

Porch of Almanzo Wilder’s birthplace, Burke (near Malone), New York, 2011.

In recent years, I have been visiting LauraLand on an annual basis.  In 2012, I was there twice!  This year, I hope to finally ride the 1880 Train between Keystone and Hill City, South Dakota.

I hope to finally see the Badlands for longer than just the occasional glance out the window as I’m whizzing down the highway in a hurry to get back to Brookings for a gig the next day.

Main Avenue, Brookings!

Main Avenue, Brookings!

I hope to visit Prairie Homestead, and the land Carrie Ingalls homesteaded as a single “spinster” near Philip, South Dakota, prior to her marriage 101 years ago.

West of Pierre, South Dakota.

West of Pierre, South Dakota.

I hope to have a bison steak (finally!) instead of just bison burgers…although where else but the 1481 can you have a meal of Bison Burger, Buffalo Sweat, and Badger Buns?

A bison farm along the Missouri River, close to the North Dakota/South Dakota border, October 2009.

A bison farm along the Missouri River, close to the North Dakota/South Dakota border, October 2009.

I hope to have a bison steak (finally!) instead of just bison burgers...although where else but the 1481 can you have a meal of Bison Burger, Buffalo Sweat, and Badger Buns?

I hope to have a bison steak (finally!) instead of just bison burgers…although where else but the 1481 can you have a meal of Bison Burger, Buffalo Sweat, and Badger Buns?

But mostly, I hope my keet-ten is feeling better really, really soon (and wouldn’t it be great if there was a way for her to travel comfortably with me, in no fear of over heating or losing her to an amble on the high plains?).  I don’t like to leave her behind, and if I wasn’t already committed to several gigs some 1,700 miles from home, I’d stay put for now.

Quinn, about age 7, October 2005. Back in those days she had to put up with a beagle, a burmese, and a second person in the house!  She's much more spoiled these days, being undisputed Monarch of the Manor.

Quinn, about age 7, October 2005. Back in those days she had to put up with a beagle, a burmese, and a second person in the house! She’s much more spoiled these days, being undisputed Monarch of the Manor.

Just a few necessities for the Meet Laura gigs.  Sometimes I almost forget which are the street clothes and which are "Mrs. Wilder's."

Just a few necessities for the Meet Laura gigs. Sometimes I almost forget which are the street clothes and which are “Mrs. Wilder’s.”

“That’s right, you saw what you saw.  That’s how we roll in the Shire!”

Closed, in observance of Native American Day, De Smet, South Dakota, 12 October 2009.

Closed, in observance of Native American Day, De Smet, South Dakota, 12 October 2009.

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5 comments on ““Road Trip!!” Adventures in LauraLand, v2013, about to commence…

  1. Laura says:

    Hope your kitty recovers quickly! And safe travels on your wonderful adventure! I will live through your road trip as I don’t get one this year. Can’t wait till it gets under way. 🙂

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  2. Judy says:

    Don’t forget to call if you need lodging on your way home. The Green Hostel is open.

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    • Melanie S. says:

      Thanks, Judy! I’d love to see you again. Looks like I will be heading out on Monday or Tuesday, barring any icky surprises when we go to the v.e.t. for a checkup. She seems to be pretty energetic, so hoping that’s a good sign. I will call you soon & see if we can coordinate.

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  3. Joan Spinazola says:

    Oh Melanie!! It seems like ages since I’ve seen you! Hope your kitty is on the mend and you have a fabulous road trip. Give me a call when you get back – can’t wait to hear of your adventures.

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    • Melanie S. says:

      Hi Joni! So good to hear from you. I will be back in the area mid-August, and we must schedule a little get-together then. Meanwhile, I hope to keep up with blogging throughout the journey; we’ll see how well I stick to my goal…

      Like

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