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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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…
My current Jetta, acquired last year, is a relative youngster, only 11 years old and just crested 150,000 last weekend.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“That’s right, you saw what you saw. That’s how we roll in the Shire!”
I found this blog entry today: Stories I’m Reading: Little House On the Prairie and it got me to thinking just how readily every type of media can lead readers and viewers to hold some false impressions about everything from history in general to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s specific experiences. The blogger, Kim, like many of us Laurati, first knew LIW because of the TV show. Now an adult, she is reading Laura’s classic series for the first time and was shocked to find the Ingalls didn’t spend all of Laura’s childhood in Walnut Grove! On the other hand, many readers fell in love with Laura’s books first and came to the show later, if at all. I am always curious what people think of the many differences…or do they notice?
When I was very, very small, my mother let me stay up late to watch Little House on the Prairie because it was one of the few shows which featured a lot of female characters and was not too “grown-up” for a little girl. I learned to read when I was given a copy of LHOP, and, holding my finger under each word of the sentence, one-at-a-time, my father helped me parse the syllables into an intelligible story. He explained the foreign concepts of hunting or making cheese. He drew pictures to make sense of the parts I couldn’t imagine, like building a door for a log house in Kansas. I knew the books and the show were very different, and my parents often pointed out anachronisms in dialogue or situations of the 70s Hollywood production. But, they recognized the merits of the attempt at making a period of history and a former way of life accessible to a modern audience. Sometimes the show succeeded, other times…well, let’s just say it didn’t always feel quite real. But, it inspired me to dress up, play at living in another time and place, and, most importantly, LEARN about that other time, and place, and the other parts of life that the show–and even The Books–did not. And, for that, I am grateful.
What has your Laura Ingalls Wilder experience been? What caught your attention, and what do you wonder about?
Tell me your story…