Across the Country in One Post

We did a lot as we traveled from the West to the East this time around. It would take months to catalog all of it, so I’m going to do my best to sum up our recent experiences with one post that’s rich in pictures, to make up for the last (rather devoid) one.

Before leaving Utah, we went out to the woods and Dad taught us how to make burn bowls (small wooden bowls made of Aspen wood, burned into shape with coals).

The Toy and Action Figure Museum in Oklahoma is a unique attraction in the middle of a small town just off the highway. It includes 1200 items in all, though they rotate and are not all on display at once. Even so, the number of toys there is incredible!

Next stop, Cadillac Ranch! You’re encouraged to spray-paint old Cadillacs in Amarillo, Texas, where the lineup shows the progression of the tail fin; you’ll notice we left our mark.

That’s Elvis Presley’s childhood home on the far left. And the hardware store where he got his first guitar. And there, on the right: that’s the very spot where eleven-year-old Elvis stood while his mother Gladys bought that guitar for his birthday. All in Tupelo, Mississippi.

We went to West Monroe, Louisiana, to see the Duck Commander warehouse. On the left is the famous sign featured in episodes of Duck Dynasty, and to the right is the loading dock where the crew hangs out.

While in Monroe, we enjoyed a tour of a friend’s old-fashioned mansion. It was truly incredible!

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In Alabama, we stopped at Grandma and Grandpa’s house to celebrate 48 states, and Grandma’s birthday! None of us look fantastic in this picture, I know, but it’s the only one I have.

Aaaand… we’ve reached Kentucky and the meetup! It kicked off with a Kentucky Unit Study, and we were sorted into groups of twos and threes to make Kentucky fact tri-fold boards.

I get to practice archery at Rockcastle Shooting Center, just three miles away! On the right, about half of our large groups hangs out.

 

Oklahoma in a Nutshell

Oklahoma doesn’t have the best reputation; it’s renowned for being frigid in the winter and sweltering hot in the summer, and when the temperature isn’t going to kill you the tornadoes might. All the same, it was a gaping white hole on our sticker map of visited states, and we had to fill it while we had the chance on our way to the Nomadic Homeschoolers Halloween Meetup in Kentucky.


After a few days in Texas (which is fairly nice, very interesting, remarkably smelly, and really quite windy), we drove on to Oklahoma, complete with unsettlingly flat lands and an enormous sun rising just ahead. There was nothing particular to interest me on the drive to Oklahoma City, so I settled down with a book and tried not to get car sick until we arrived. Finally we rolled into the outskirts of the state’s capital, and parked outside the Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.


Gordon and I looked at a few galleries, then split off to check out the rodeo segment. On the way there we were sidetracked by a room full of cowboy history and techniques, and entertained ourselves by reading plaques rich in detail and examining old-fashioned barbed wire and branding irons. After we had discovered all that there was to find there, we moved on to the film area. There was a small theatre were Gordon and I watched a fascinating movie about the history of westerns, and a collection of John-Wayne-related items, including several guns of his, mostly gifts. We tried a “guess the TV show” game in which you had to pick out the show that matched a playing theme song, and also attempted to name the horses of famous movie cowboys. I did pitifully.


We finally made our way to several rooms filled with information about the rodeo business, both in the early days and now. There were videos of different events, accompanied by details. For example, you could watch bits of a calf roping competition, and every so often there would be a little box on the screen saying “The damages suffered in this event make up 8% of all rodeo-induced injuries,” or “Rope around the calf’s ankles must hold for six seconds to be considered ‘tied.’” Finally, Gordon got bored of all this and, though I was still interested, he dragged me off to the next place.
Next we examined Indian clothing, including beaded shoes and belts, roughly woven dresses, animal skin outfits, and feathered headdresses. Traditional cowboy wear was in the next room, so we looked at that, too. In an art gallery off the main hall we met up with Mom, who wanted to see the rodeo stuff we had just been looking at; we led her away, starting to shiver in the highly air-conditioned building.


The last attraction was outside: a horse graveyard. Several famous bucking broncos whom Gordon and I had read about inside were buried underneath the path, with tombstones bearing inscriptions about their lives. Five Minutes ‘Till Midnight was there, along side Midnight and Tornado, all famous broncos in their days. Each of these horses had strived to never let a man stay on them for eight seconds, and Tornado was only ever beaten once, just before his retirement. It was a beautiful courtyard garden, with streams and large, exotic flowers around every bend. After we had finished there, Mom dropped into the gift shop to find a book, Dad looked into one last gallery, and Gordon and I read outside in the shade, before setting off again on our trip to Kentucky. 

P.S. Sorry there are no pictures. I couldn’t take any, as museums usually don’t allow it.

Backpacking at Pleasant Creek

What? Another backpacking trip? If you don’t remember, my last one was around Fish Lake (read that HERE). I told all about our experiences, fire making, our shelter, and our hike. But what I didn’t say was that that was a test, a sort of what-did-we-forget, let’s-do-this-different-next-time test. Because we had plans to make another visit to the wonderful world of lugging things up a trail.
           Alice and Ellen are some of my dearest friends. We met six years ago, and were incredibly close, but we didn’t see each other much after I left across the country. When we came back to Utah about a year after the start of this great adventure, visiting this wonderful family was one of the first things we did. We’ve been seeing each other a lot while we’re in the same state for once, but it’s the intention to get on the road again at the end of September. This called for a last epic meetup.

Packing and making up ridiculous trail names.
Packing and making up ridiculous trail names.


         The plan was simple: we would be hiking along Pleasant Creek, taking two days to do it. Mrs. Jolly, Alice, and Ellen met us at our RV Park at 11:00 to pack and rearrange, and then we ate lunch and headed out.
         We didn’t have to wait to reach the trail to find an adventure. Not even ten minutes after we’d left, we were headed home again. Us girls had been swinging over the creek on the town rope swing (reason #1 that Torrey is awesome), and Ellen’s hand had slipped. Well, okay, it was a little more dramatic than that. The truth is, she didn’t quite have a hold on the homemade handle hanging from tree above. And then she slipped off the bridge, holding on with only one hand, sliding slowly to the bottom of the smooth stick. And…. sploosh! Alice successfully retrieved the waterlogged hat floating down the stream, and luckily Ellen was only wet to the waist. But still, you know, totally soaked. Torrey is really only two miles across, and so it wasn’t exactly a long drive to reach Wonderland RV Park, where she changed clothes and we started again on our adventure.

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The moment before the fall… You can’t see the creek at all, but it’s there, I promise.


This time we arrived at our trailhead without incident. There was a group of people on horseback about to start out and I, personally, wanted to “borrow” a horse to carry our packs for us. But, of course, this would have been very difficult, and so we backpacked the traditional way.
         We had lots of fun on our hike. Alice, Ellen, and Mrs. Jolly entertained us with songs (they all have amazing voices), while we found our way along the river path. Sometimes, when we got too hot, we would shed our packs to take a break in the cool water. Truly entertaining were the stories the three of us came up with. There was the tale of Cacti, an evil prickly pear who attacked people when they made fun of his purple spikes, the adventures of two Olympian rocks, and many more. They kept our spirits up while we hiked, giving us almost as much energy as the thick strips of beef jerky that accompanied them.

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       Soon we were almost to the end of our trail. Two days we’d walked, sung, told stories, and laughed, and now the adventure was coming to a close. In fact, we were even now on a dirt road where we were often passed by Jeeps. Trying to keep our motivation up in the suffocating heat, Alice, Ellen, and I told a story in which everything had to be refreshing. The general plot was simple: a boy wanted to be able to be a fish and not be a fish at will. Each of us, when it was our turn to add a bit, described in detail the cool flavor of mint ice cream, a tall glass of frosty lemonade, or the chilling effects of ocean water. We called each other forward when we started to lag behind, and we gulped down long draughts of water. But all the same, we were soon asking “how much longer?” Mom said that we would see a gravel road. That would be our sign that we were practically there. All five of us were looking out now, and after a while us girls were exclaiming hopes.
         “I think I saw some dust fly up there!”
“There’s a road sign, look!”
         “I swear I hear cars!”
         And then finally I glanced up and saw, in a dip between the hills, the flash of a bright red vehicle, moving at highway speeds. I quickly related this to the girls. As we were far more motivated, the pace picked up, and it wasn’t long before a gray gravel road was indeed in sight. It was our most important mile-stone, and we were all quite ready to reach it.
         “Ten…” Alice started counting down, even though we were at least twenty seconds away.
“Nine…” This time Ellen and I had joined her, and we all sped up a little.
         “Eight…” We were far louder now.
“Seven…” We quickened again.
“Six…” I started to run.
         “Five…” So did the others.
“Four…” We were dashing as fast as we could go.
“Three…” My backpack was clanging.
“Two…” We didn’t think we could go any faster, but we did.                      “One…” Our destination was right in front of us.
“Zero!” We gasped the last number, standing at the very edge of the road. We were looking out at a great expanse exactly like the one on the other side of the gravel. Completely deserted, void, and, worst of all, without our vehicle.
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         We walked on. And on. It really wasn’t far, but I kept expecting to see the yellow Jeep around every corner. And then Mom told us to go to a tree, a huge tree on the side of the road that cast shade for yards around it. We were to wait there, she said. Then she took off her backpack and ran down the road, going to get the car.
         We rested in the shade, and before long a cool breeze began to blow. We dumped our packs off our shoulders and sat on them, resting after quite a day. Soon Mom arrived in the Jeep, waving and honking her horn. Alice got it on video. We took a few success pictures, and then drove home exhausted, to get ice cream.
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         It was cool and good in my mouth, and I licked away the strawberry while the others talked. It was a wonderful adventure, everyone agreed. A wonderful adventure…

 

Header Picture: Left to right, Mom, Ellen, me, Alice, Mrs. Jolly. Photo credit: someone in a horse riding group who we met at the trailhead.