I started dreaming of this adventure last year after my tenure of parent care giving came to an abrupt end with the passing of my sweet mama. I was still in pretty bad shape after Ava’s passing and was the only logical one to care for Mom in her last years. I’d been caring for her as she had for me 67 years. It was what we did. I’d made her a promise over 50 years ago and it was one I kept…almost to my own undoing.

I kept my eye on the open road to help me through the diapers, 911 calls, emergency rooms, doctors, hospital stays and all the chaos, crisis and nightmares that came along without notice.

My PTSD was magnified during that time and after some very hard work focusing on her estate issues and finding the right combo of help for me, I could begin to begin to dream again of heading West.

The only way I could even think about taking this trip was with my Service Dog, Montana. She, along with my friends and family, made it possible to even think I could do it…for even a minute.

I sat frozen in my car…packed to the hilt ready to pull out of the driveway to head West and totally melted down. I wasn’t going. I couldn’t be that far away from my safety zone…my home. I called my BFF and she helped talk me down out of the tree by helping me break it down into little bites by saying, “Go to Knoxville to be with your family and see how you feel after that.” So, that’s what I did.

But first, I prayed. I prayed that God would help me find my way, reinforce my faith and direct my path. I put my destination in my TomTom and started on my way. I had to pull over THREE times because my TomTom wouldn’t cooperate…for the first time in 80,000 miles! It was insistent on my taking a totally new route over my saved/favorite/faster way.

I finally just embraced the joy of the journey when I recalled my prayer. I found myself driving along a two lane back road beside the Tennessee River and loving the countryside instead of the fast pace of the interstate…until. Suddenly, I realized where Tom was directing me…to The Tail of the Dragon on Hwy. 129. It has something like 128 hairpin turns in 11 miles. I guess God wanted me to slow down to 10 miles an hour to embrace my destiny and believe in my prayer and rebuild my faith!

I was so happy to see my loving, supportive and encouraging family. Emboldened by love and faith, Montana and I pulled out headed West intending to only get to Arkansas on Friday, May 13. The rest is history.

I-40 used to be a decent road to take West. Well, it still is in Tennessee except for the very aggressive drivers and constant cluster confusion construction in Memphis. Once I got to Arkansas, the road got worse and so did the cluster factor. Wrecks every where. I was still in the mood to drive so I headed for the Oklahoma border and would have made it easily before dark had it not been for the fact that, even though we can have space travel to and from a space station, cops can’t figure out how to keep from blocking a major interstate artery in BOTH directions for over an hour for a wreck in the median!

Needless to say, all I could do was get in the hotel and crash, get up today and start all over again but in Oklahoma. Well, folks, I’m sorry to say that I-40 ain’t much better there as they have had perpetual construction without much improvement over the last times I’ve driven the full length of it. The blessing was in the beautiful array of wild flowers of bright yellow, lavender, orange and all shades of green in pastures and crops.

Texas, on the other hand, made me believe again in someone somewhere actually keeping our infrastructure intact. Amarillo was my target and I wasn’t letting up because there was a back road there I’d never taken and I was now drooling.

I pulled off the safety of I-40 onto Saucy Road (US Hwy 385), got through the traffic garbage to get to the good stuff and realized that I’d forgotten to breathe. It was only when I came over that first knoll and saw prairie stretching for hundreds of miles that I caught a deep breath, saying out loud, “Now THIS is why I’ve pushed myself…to see THIS!”

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I had a greater sense of pride and accomplishment in this moment than I’ve had in many years. This was BIG and I’m so happy to share it with you all.

Below is the payoff…sunset.

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Tomorrow it’s Boulder, Colorado or BUST, then my favorite place in northwest…FLAMING GORGE.

Thanks for following me and HAPPY TAILS!

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