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Bessie, Joanie and Frederick

We pulled into the San Antonio KOA and there she was.

Bessie. That’s what we’ve named our new-to-us motorhome. Not the most original of names for a vehicle, but it seems to fit.

Standing outside our soon-to-be new home were the soon-to-be previous owners, Joanie and Frederick. Joanie was petite, blond, and had a wonderful positive aura about her. Frederick, taller, sported a ball cap, where a long white ponytail flowed out of. His eyes twinkled behind his glasses, a quiet smile from underneath his mustache.

Welcome, they both said in unison and ushered us into the motorhome.

As soon as I made my way up the three steps into the coach and onto the threshold, I felt like this was home. I felt like I belonged here, all the while emotions of having been here before swept over me.

This was to be the third motorhome we traveled in. The first, an all-gold Cortez, brought people out on their porches throughout New England back in 1992. This isn’t the Cortez we drove in, but you get the idea.

I was pregnant with our daughter, Kyle, and little baby Claire spent most of the long travel days snapped into her car seat watching the world go by. My favorite story from that adventure almost was the worst story. Back then, mapping consisted of an Atlas, with dog-eared pages and oily finger stains. A thick campground book served as our guide to sites. Driving along the coast of Maine to our overnight destination, as we passed through a small town, Brad suggested we stop for dinner. I grumbled that I thought we should just keep going. Claire was getting fussy, and I was tired, dealing with a huge sinus headache. I just wanted to be there, wherever there was. The road went from a four-lane highway to two lanes, to something just above a gravel drive. The nearest thing to any dinner was looking like the few cans of beans we had in the cupboard.

We pulled up to the campground welcome stand, not much more than a little hut that kids would huddle in waiting for the school bus. The owner welcomed us and offered a site right along the bay. Claire began screaming on cue, and Brad asked if there was anywhere nearby to grab something to eat. The owner directed us just up the roadway, where she said we’d be in for a treat. It was close enough to walk, so we scooped up Claire and her highchair and hoofed our way to the dinner surprise.

There was a little weathered shack with a deck, right on the water. I set up the highchair and cuddled Claire, trying to settle her. Brad went inside and came out with a huge grin on his face and a spindly lobster, pinchers banded with rubber.

Lobster was the treat. I can still taste the buttery, soft meat from the fresh-caught crustacean. I’ve not had better lobster since.

The owners took us under their wing and showed us their lobster traps on the deck, explaining to these Midwesterners how they worked.

Our second motorhome we purchased after losing our daughter Claire. I was emotional as we met with the owner of the small dealership. This purchase stemmed from our vision of moving forward literally and figuratively after her death. It was a huge investment, both monetarily and with our family. The owner, an older gentleman, pulled me aside and asked if I was okay. He calmed me by offering that what we were doing was “honoring your daughter as well as your other two children. Think of all the amazing adventures you’ll have, the sights you’ll see, together.” He said that we were wise to do it now, for too often he had customers wait until they were older and found it difficult to get around.

Boy, did we get around…to 47 states in the unit.

(Our daughter Kyle filling in our travel map. Note to self: Buy a new one.)

And the adventures? From a hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque to a seaplane ride in Coeur d’Alene to hiking in Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and an unforgettable kayak trip trying to beat a storm on Jenny Lake in the Tetons, we did it all.

So, here I was, once again, stepping foot inside our next adventure-transport vehicle. It couldn’t have felt more right, from Joanie and Frederick’s welcome to their generous gifting of many household goods, cleaners, and supplies. We learned in our time together that “Bessie” had served her purpose for Joanie and Frederick, and now it was time to move on.  We’re grateful they have entrusted us to take good care of her.

So now Bessie has a new purpose. Serving us safely as we attempt to continue to explore, learn, golf, and meet people along the way in our travels.

I think she’s up for it. I know I am.

 

 

On the Road Again

Trucks rumble past, their trailers bumping on the rough road surface. A forklift keeps going in front of me, back and forth to service bays. Ironically, Jackson Brown belts out Running on Empty on the radio. I just try to keep breathing, slow inhales and exhales to calm myself as well as our 65 lb. Yellow Lab, Luna, who has decided to become a lap dog, propping half of her load on me, panting away. Brad is outside with the technician, who skillfully manages to pump nearly 70 pounds of air pressure into the driver’s side drive axle tires.

Kind of important to have enough air in your tires.

So begins our first road trip, or rather, return to the road trip, in a motorhome. Our journey really didn’t start with the dishwasher that didn’t run properly (I know, I know, a dishwasher, really???) overnight, or the toilet that refused to flush, the car that didn’t want to engage in neutral to tow properly, the under-inflated tires, or even, to add insult to injury, the door that took some creative manipulation of the hinge to get it to close.

Our journey began over twenty years ago, when after experiencing the death of our oldest daughter, Claire, my husband Brad, and I decided to up the ante in our quest to get our kids to all 50 states. We bought our first motorhome. And we completed our mission.

Memories of those trips often pop up in my brain feed, but even more so since contemplating getting back on the road. I’ll never forget all the purple, Claire’s favorite color, we witnessed on our maiden voyage in 2003, as we traveled to Yellowstone, the Tetons, and Glacier National Park. Those three weeks together as a family, just three years out from when we last said goodbye to Claire, set us on a path of truly living, not merely surviving.

I read Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose on our travels, our trip often a reflection of the text. I remember a reference to uncharted territory in the book, which I shared with Brad and the kids. Later that evening, while Ian was walking our dog, Ginger, I got a little nervous about how long young Ian was gone. I used the walkie talkies that came with the unit and radioed him, “Where are you? Are you okay?” His response, “We’re in uncharted territory.”

We’ll also never forget our daughter Kyle looking out on the rolling hills of Kansas, dark shadows cast on the green forests. She couldn’t figure out that the shadows were from the clouds. She was also very concerned about where the cows slept at night, bless her heart.

That motorhome continued to serve us well through road trips, college tailgate parties, and a few empty nest adventures, up until our last to Northern Michigan just months before Ginger’s journey was over.

So here we are, back on the road again, setting out to explore areas of this country we missed the first time around, creating new memories, all the while looking back on those from the past.

I feel incredibly blessed to have these experiences with Brad, in a beautiful, new-to-us motorhome. I hope you enjoy experiencing our trials, tribulations, and new, fantastic memories right along with us. Perhaps in some small way, during a time we could all use a little inspiration, my stories from the road will offer a bit to you.