BOOK TWELVE: Journey Out Of The Hole

INNER FREEDOM ON THE ROAD

 

BOOK 12: 

JOURNEY OUT OF THE HOLE:

Little Ralph’s Emergence of Self-Esteem

 

July 2001–December 2002

We begin another journey, leaving Denver July 3, and stop at Beau Jo’s in Idaho Springs where we see a replica of the Phoenix Mine shaft (a very deep hole), which gave me the title for this book, as Van continues his inner Journey Out of the Hole.

From Glenwood Springs, and over the mountains for an unusual Fourth; to Blue Mesa Ranch Resort; Summer in Oregon and Washington (raspberries, Mt. St. Helens, Enchanted Meadow); Sept.11:Outer & Inner Explosions; To Stay or Not?; Calif: end of the Journey and Out of the Hole.

 

Chapter 1

PUSHING THROUGH THE INSURMOUNTABLE

 

Which Way to Go?

          It’s time to move on to cooler climates, and we’re heading West, but do we go over The Rocky Mountains in Freedom (our Holiday Rambler RV) or select a less challenging route? In the past, we’d had many breakdowns and repairs, so my husband, Van, and I questioned the advisability of putting our RV through the ups and downs of mountain traveling.

          We considered going north through Wyoming and then head West along I-90, a route we’d taken before, and the prospect of  the cooler, less steep mountains of Montana and Idaho seemed desirable, as we contemplated a visit with our friend, Bonnie, near the peninsula in Washington state. But when I re-examined the map, I realized that the northern route would take us out of our way.

          On the other hand, crossing the desert, west of The Rockies, didn’t seem appealing during this record heat wave of 2001. So, as usual, I prayed and asked God to guide us, letting it be His will, and not our seeking comfort and safety zone.

          “Go over the seemingly insurmountable Rocky Mountains and trust me to guide and protect you,” came the answer. “Well, of course, why didn’t I think of that,” I replied.

Beau Jo’s in Idaho Springs

          I thought my inner child, Joanie, came up with the idea of stopping at Beau Jo’s in Idaho Springs (only 18-miles into the mountains) for their famous Mountain Pies, otherwise known as pizza. But once inside, I realized that we had been guided, as the first step in our new journey, and that this experience was to be the theme of my new book, “Journey Out of the Hole.”

          We had not been to this Original Beau Jo’s before, so the enchanting mountain atmosphere occupied our attention, as we studied the old-time pictures of the stalwart gold miners and looked at the antique equipment on display in the bar, on our way to the dining room. And when we passed the replica of the Phoenix Mine, and looked down into the deep hole, I didn’t realize that there was going to be a stream of ideas coming forth, while we ordered and awaited our mountain pie.

Mountain Pies

          In fact, our inner kids, Joanie and Little Ralph, were enthralled with selecting our crust and other choices, including the size. We opted for individual ones, because we could each have what we wanted. Usually, Van likes to share, but I began to get the picture of the meaningfulness of this restaurant, as Little Ralph happily ordered white crust for his hamburger/sausage combination with the traditional pizza sauce. This was a major, major breakthrough in the emergence of Van’s inner child and I could hardly wait to see how the rest of the trip unfolded, as I ordered my individualized Highland Mary: chicken, olives, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, Ranch dressing, with a touch of basil on whole wheat crust. The edge of the crust is so thick that they serve honey to add to the leftovers for dessert.

The Phoenix Mine

          We weren’t in any hurry and the lengthy wait for our meal gave us time to chat and look at the pictures and assortment of  equipment in this room. My seat faced the Phoenix Mine shaft and as I studied the wooden frame, the beginning of “Journey Out of the Hole” became clear.

          I jumped from my seat, grabbed my camera and headed to the mine to capture the significance of the scene. Looking down into the rock-lined hole, I spotted the body (stuffed, of course) of a miner sprawled out beside a large bucket of gold coins, simulating the wealth of gold.

Little Ralph’s Hole

          Suddenly, I realized that God had guided us here so we could see this experiential aide for Little Ralph’s “hole” (An experiential aide is like a visual aide, only you are a participant, rather than simply viewing the lesson). Van’s first encounter with his inner child came, after he’d expressed a desire to meet him, and during a meditation, the reluctant waif peered out from the bottom of a hole. It took many visits before Van was able to urge his child-self to come out of the hole and begin a relationship.

          When I returned to the table, I explained the experiential aide to Little Ralph, who seemed to understand its meaningfulness for his recovery process. And, later, while we looked at picture on the wall of some men down in a deep hole (mine shaft), I said, “Little Ralph, look at this hole. You need to realize that your hole wasn’t a negative thing, but it could just have well. have been a mine shaft, and in reality, you are wealthy, especially if you own the mine. And, since it was your hole, you certainly owned it, right?”

          His eyes were big and knowing, as he nodded, and I had a feeling that another major shift in his recovery process had lifted him to a new level, much like the levels shown on the maps of the mines (hanging on the wall).

The Freeland Mine

          While looking at the many pictures, my eyes almost popped out of my head when I discovered a map titled “The Freeland Mine.” This is my paternal family name and I couldn’t believe my eyes that a Freeland had once owned a mine here in Idaho Springs. My imagination ran rampant, and when I’d asked the host if he knew about the mine, he didn’t, but he said,

“Maybe you have a fortune waiting.”

         I thought, “I must tell Dad about this,” and then I realized that he had died. Yet, I knew that he knew, because in the hereafter there is no separation, and communication is simply a matter of thought. So this map was an exciting discovery for Joanie, and she decided that she could tell her brother, Gary, about it, when she visits him in The Sierras, and I took a picture of the map to show him.

Up, Up, and Up

          Before leaving the parking lot in Idaho Springs, I took a picture of Little Ralph standing in front of Freedom, with a high, narrow waterfall coming down the mountain and a large waterwheel in the background, on the other side of the highway.

          And from there the ascent began, as we continued upward through the glorious scenery of pines and other evergreens contrasted by towering mountain peaks frosted with white snow, and the bluest of skies. Up, up, up, and then down, down down, over one mountain ridge after another until we reached the Eisenhower Tunnel, and then more of the same all the way to Vail, one of the great ski resorts of The Rockies. And then on to Copper Mountain, another Ski Resort.

          Van, or I should say, Little Ralph, loves driving the motor home and much of the time he had a smile on his face, as he negotiated the steep upward grades and shifted into low gears for the descent.

          I thought that these ups and downs rather symbolized Little Ralph’s tendency to go in and out of the hole.

          He talked about traveling these mountain roads in the winter to go skiing, and said, “I’m glad to give that up,” meaning the winter traveling on treacherous roads.

          “Did you miss skiing when you went into the Navy?” I asked.

          “Yeah,” he replied, adding, “I still do.” When we returned to Colorado, he had talked about resuming his skiing, but he never did, and now he probably would be far too out of shape, but who knows, with his new zest for life, anything would be possible.

          I realized that I’d never heard him mention where he went for Basic Training, only that his Frogman training, had been on Coronado, in San Diego, so I asked, “Where did you go for Basic Training?”

          “That was in San Diego” he replied, then added, “But, after taking a battery of aptitude and other tests, they said I would be sent to school, and I had a choice of training to become a tower controller, or a quartermaster (navigation and communications). I put my first choice for tower controller, which would have taken me to Norman, Oklahoma. But the school was full, so I went to Bainbridge, Md. and trained as a quartermaster for four months.”

          “Did you get out and sightsee, such as Washington DC?”

          “I was invited to Uncle Channings for Thanksgiving, when he lived in Arlington, Va.,” he replied, adding, “but I didn’t get around much, because the base was so far out in thecountry.”

          “Did you see your mom during that time?”

          “No, she lived in San Diego the entire time I was in the Navy, so I got to see her when I was in Basic Training and also during Frogman Training, which was three months. And I also spent my leaves there.”

          This conversation had filled in a few more pages of Van’s History, which we had been working on while at his Aunt Betsy’s, and I noted that I must add them, later.”

Canyons, Rivers and Valleys

          A surprising amount of the trip through The Rockies is flat, as we traveled across the valley between mountains. We stopped for a lunch break at the town of Eagle, where the Rest Stop is beside the Eagle River, which flows through the valley which is green and lush from pastures and farmlands.

          The Colorado River flows through another valley, and then winds through Glenwood Canyon; along with the train track and the highway, which sometimes is double-deck. The Rocky Mountains are so-named because of the narrow canyon created by the towering granite or red rock walls. It must have been a nightmare blasting through those rocks to build a highway. In fact,we remembered traveling through here, before the two-lane freeway, and it was a nightmare, too. But now the high rock walls, green trees, blue skies and rippling river create an enjoyable scenic drive, although I thought, “Now we’re down in the hole, if one were up above looking down, and it is lovely.”

Glenwood Springs

          I love Glenwood Springs, and Joanie had wanted to take this route so she could swim in the world’s largest outdoor mineral pool, but with the temperature over 90, it didn’t seem feasible, so we drove on, past the Hotel Colorado, another place with memories of  staying where President Theodore Roosevelt and many other notorieties had vacationed. In fact, the giftshop features teddy bears, which were named after the famous president who liked bear hunting. When someone gave him a stuffed bear, a reporter dubbed it a “teddy bear.”

          But, we frequented that hotel when Van had a good income as a computer programmer- analyst. Now, depending on Social Security retirement to support our traveling lifestyle, we settled for the night at the Wal-Mart parking lot and then went inside to cool off in the air-conditioned store while we shopped and got our pictures developed.

          Once it cooled off, we returned to Freedom and opened the windows and door, hoping to catch a cool breeze, rather than fire up the generator for the AC. Fortunately, the sun set behind the high mountain quite early, which helped to cool the evening. But, I noticed that we were in another canyon with very little view, and I decided that I wouldn’t be happy living in the limitation of a canyon. In fact, I wondered why Little Ralph would want to hide out in a hole. I assumed that his hole-consciousness evolved from his feelings of low self-esteem, and Iwas glad that he was finally beginning to feel good about himself again. I also understood why God had guided us to take the route over The Rockies, because it had been a seemingly insurmountable challenge, but we had had an enjoyable trip, with no breakdowns or repairs.

          I knew this was because Little Ralph had gotten over the need to subconsciously create them so that his mother would give him money for repairs, which perpetuated his money and mother love concept. In other words that’s how she showed love, by giving him money. Now that he understood this money-love concept in their relationship, and had replaced it, he no longer needed the RV breakdowns and we could enjoy our travels. Thank You, God.

          His healing process had also allowed us to have the generator working so we could have the comfort of AC, which we’d done without during the last summer’s 90-degree heat. Indeed, we were emerging from the hole (that had also enshrouded me), and the next phase of our journey would be another major step out of the hole.

Chapter 2

A MOST UNUSUAL CELEBRATION OF FREEDOM

A Fabulous Place to Celebrate

          The next morning, July 4th, we headed toward Aspen and could see the high-steeped Maroon Bells peaks, with only a touch of snow along the top, towering above a green valley with Roaring Forks Creek flowing along the highway.

          The railroad track between us and the river reminded me that, in the past, Van had told me about riding the train up to Aspen for skiing. And sometimes, when the fishing was good, the engineer and conductor would stop the train and fish for an hour or so. Everyone knew what to expect, so they would go for a walk, read, or simply enjoy the beauty of the valley, with its green pastures and grazing cows and horses, and the surrounding mountains. The jigsaw scene would certainly not be hard to endure, unless, of course, you were in a hurry to get to Aspen.

          Although Aspen must be a fabulous place to celebrate this holiday, we were not going there this trip, but turned at Carbondale and took Highway 133 southwest through more incredible scenery: following a canyon, along another rippling stream.

Redstone Parade

           At a small mountain town, Redstone, a hundred cars were parked along the highway and we soon saw the reason. The town, in this narrow canyon, was to our left, across the creek, and on the bridge stood a half-dozen horses and riders and a float getting ready for their part in the July 4th parade that was slowly passing through the tree-lined streets.

          We would have stopped and watched, but there was no place to park, so we moved on, happy that God had provided us with the first of our unusual Indedpendence Day celebrations.           

The First Spectacular of the Day

          Because of the heat, no fireworks were allowed in the mountains, but we were given far more spectacular sights to see this July Fourth.

          We’d remembered that McClure Pass went over the mountains, but we’d forgotten that this highway was steeper and higher than any we had already crossed this trip. However, once we  began the upward trek that wound up one hillside then another and another, I remembered that it was the one I didn’t want to take again, at least not in Freedom. But, here we were, so nothing to do but enjoy the spectacular view, as we looked out over the scene: the valley below from which we’d just come, with its homes and pastures nestled amongst green fields, winding stream and towering mountains; one that we were ascending forever upward.

          With no reason for anxiety, as Freedom faithfully and securely moved us forward, and Little Ralph had a gleeful smile, while Van handled the driving, I allowed myself to relax and enjoy the view.

          This may seem to be a given, but my anxiety syndrome usually becomes triggered in these precarious situations. However, I felt relieved, because I knew that God had guided us into these so-called insurmountable obstacles, He would also take us safely through. So, one might say this was another form of celebrating Freedom with a spectacular view; only not fireworks.

          Freedom jauntily passed a pickup pulling a horse-trailer, which had stopped at the side of the road, while the driver looked helplessly around. Van knew that, even if he wanted to help, there was no place to park Freedom, and there was nothing he could do, so we forged upward and onward.

          At one point, he noticed a few cars following, but wisely said, “I’m not going to pull off to let them by.”

          “Right,” I replied, wanting to cheer his decision, “otherwise you’ll lose all of Freedom’s momentum, and we’ll be sytmied, as has happened in the past.”

          I could tell that Little Ralph-Van was going through his own growing-up process, as we ventured upward to the summit. Here he found a safe place to pull aside and allow the other travelers to speed on their way. We were parked by one of many, many aspen groves, with their white bark and spinning green leaves. From here it seemed we could see forever, as we looked ahead to the tops of the lower mountains and the valleys in the distance.

          The steep downward trend had more challenges, but Van shifted into low-gear and slowly allowed Freedom to make the descent at its own speed and in its own time. I actually dread the snail’s pace down hill more than upward, because everyone else is zooming along while we crawl. And, although Van pulls off for them to pass, whenever possible, we get some devastating glares, as the drivers race forward, not understanding the mechanism of our Holiday Rambler, or maybe I should say not understanding Van’s inner mechanisms of the engineer’s mind that compulsively must creep up and down the hills.

Ignorance is Bliss

          As we neared the bottom, I said, “As far as I’m concerned, this is the last mountain we’re  going to travel, other than to visit my brother in The Sierra’s, and that’s not nearly as bad as this. But, thankfully, we’re down and don’t have to deal with any more roads through The Rockies.”

          I had to laugh, later, when I remembered what I’d said. Something like “Never say never.” But  “ignorance is bliss,” and we blissfully drove along another stream that eventually became Paonia Reservoir, where boaters and water skiers were enjoying their holiday. Then we passed Somerset and Bowie, populated mostly by coal miners and their families, obvious by the small towns and large mines.

A Matter of Communications

          At the turnoff to nearby Paonia, Van pulled off into a service station to allow passing, but he didn’t realize there really wasn’t room for us at the crowded respite for other travelers, so he squeezed by the cars pulling in and out of the parking area, as I said, for Little Ralph’s benefit,

“You know, there’s a difference between thoughtfulness and codependence. Pulling off here was codependent, because you jeopardized our own safety, and others too, for that matter.”

          He didn’t say anything, because he had all he could do to negotiate the traffic and get back onto the highway. Then he said, “I pulled off to let three cars pass, and now I have four behind us. There’s something wrong with this picture.”

          “My point exactly,” I said, figuring his lesson had been learned and it was best to leave it at that, as we were approaching the next town, Hotchkiss, where we would be turning south onto Highway 92.

          “When you find a place to stop,” I’d said long before Paonia, “pull off so we can rest and have lunch.” I’d pictured a place in the mountains with trees and a stream; or at least a pleasant view.

          But Van had driven past one good spot, and explained, “There weren’t any trees.”

          “I know, but there was a river and a nice view, so we could use our air-conditioning.”

          Nevertheless, it was long gone, so we continued until we were no longer in the mountains or woods. But we were hungry and needed to stop. I’d moved to the recliner chair, so couldn’t see what happened next, until too late. Van had made the turnoff onto Highway 92 and was driving through the small town of Hotchkiss, when he said, “Should we keep going?”

          I didn’t realize what he was talking about, and said, “Yes,” just as I noticed a huge pull-off area by a stream and trees with a lovely view. “Why didn’t you stop?” I asked.

          “You said “No,” he justified.

          “But it was a perfect place to park. You know, it’s okay for you to stop, even if I don’t give the okay. It’s not only allright, but advisable for you to make a decision.”

          Van was silent, as I grumbled, “I must be the bitch of the century, if you can’t make n decision without fear of repercussions.” I knew that the pattern had originated in his childhood and been projected onto me, but I was truly upset, and most  of all I was hungry and I needed to get off the road awhile.

          “We’ll find another place in a mile or so,” he reassured me, now concerned because he knew that when I need to eat, I get grumpy, so he was highly motivated.

          However, we had now entered a flatland composed of desert in some areas and farms others, with small communities here and there; but no place to pull off, By now he was getting desperate, so suggested, “How about in front of that wooden fence?”

          It was a narrow spot by the mailbox and I said, “No.” I was still holding out for some sort of view, without cars whizzing by next to us. In fact, when we drove through a small town, I saw a library and park, with parking behind, if you could see it, and Van didn’t. By the time I could get the words out of my mouth, we were long gone past it.

          Finally, we were approaching a Recreational Reservoir, so Van pulled into the Entrance to the State Park and asked the price of admission.  “$4.00!”

          For some reason that wasn’t okay with Van, so he went through a five-minute question and answer to find out where we could park free for an hour while we eat our lunch.

  The attendant suggested the possibility of a narrow pull-off that we’d already passed, and  which Van rejected because of the ruts; and also someone was parked there and there wasn’t enough room for us.

          I was mulling in my mind her answer when he’d asked if there was any place up ahead. She’d said, It’s been a long time since I went over those mountains and I don’t remember if there’s any place to pull off the road.” Remember those words, as they will come up later on.

          In the meantime, we drove on and finally found a perfect place overlooking a nice view with a stream down below, although it was dry. Who cares? The important thing is to get something to eat and rest awhile.

Wrong! Really Wrong!

          We noticed that we had begun an upward climb, but we could see a mesa up ahead that  came to an end, so we figured that we would drive around it through a valley. Wrong! Really Wrong!

          I think of all our travels, this was our worst mistake. And when we tried to figure at what point we should have done something differently, the answer probably would be “At the State Park.”

          First of all, if Van didn’t think to ask more questions, then I should have urged him. But this seemed to be Little Ralph’s learning experience, so it obviously had to go the way it went. Besides, he was so focused on saving money that in retrospect I can see that he was into an  obsessive-compulsive pattern involving money, for some reason. I really don’t know what triggered it; maybe his having been wrong about his decisions, so he reverted to a childhood money-love syndrome relating to his mother; possibly a defense mechanism to make himself feel better. 

Spectacular, No Fireworks

          In any event, after lunch we started up yet another hill that soon became a mountain; in fact, a mountain that never seemed to end; the reason being that the end of the mesa dropped off sheer cliffs into Black Canyon with the Gunnison River and Blue Mesa Lake at the bottom.

          I must admit, this is the most spectacular scenery we’ve ever seen, but from a narrow, winding road thousands of feet straight up, or down, who’s looking?

          Okay, I did enjoy the scenery for awhile: colorful jagged, rugged rock formations that must have been the devil’s playground rising from the blue-black waters of the lake on both sides. However, the road on our side snaked along the side of the mountain; not straight from Point A to Point B, but like the Coast Highway in Northern California, winding in and out of the coves. In other words, we would travel high above the lake, then inland for several miles, swoop around the hairpin curve, through the aspen groves and pines, and back the other side where we could look over to the road we’d left earlier.

          Sometimes we could see the picturesque palisades above the narrow road along the mountain on the other side of another canyon, and we hoped we weren’t going there; maybe the  road would go inland through a canyon and take us off  the side of this mesa. But it never did. Well, almost never.

          I’d started out enjoying the spectacular scenery, looking across the lake of Black Canyon to the mountain on the other side, and sometimes we could even see between mountains to a valley where Highway 50 wound on solid flat ground; the highway that we should have taken, if we had asked the right questions and learned that we would be better off going back to Highway 133 and then south and east on Highway 50. But, we didn’t, so here we were, and there was nothing we could do but hopefully live through it.

          I say that, because Little Ralph was so paralyzed that Van crept along the middle of the road at about 5-miles-per-hour, causing Joanie to fear for her life that a car or motorcycle would zoom around a curve and smash into us, or that we would roll off the side of the cliff and eventually crash at the bottom. It was terrible!

          At one point, when seeing the dark clouds and thunder heads appear, Joanie began to cry and shouted something to Van, or Little Ralph, or whoever was driving in the middle of the road. It seemed to snap him out of his paralysis and he drove more sanely, but it was still a long, long way to the end.

          I know that Joanie had reverted to her childhood when the adult, for instance mother, had no longer been responsible or able to function in a normal way, and it was up to Joanie to take care of her and the baby brother. But she was only a child herself and didn’t know what to do. And when her mother went crazy, it was all Joanie’s fault. Now, this situation had triggered the same feelings and she was frightened, because Van seemed to have lost it.

 

Let Freedom Ring

          We were really in serious trouble and finally, I moved to the couch and began reading my spiritual magazines. Words of a spiritual practitioner affirmed, “I am blessed. I am thankful. I accept this life and release my concerns. Spirit provides.”

          And the monthly prayer in “Unity Magazine” read: “Life is a journey we do not make alone, for there is One who is with us and within us to share every step of the journey and prepare the path before us. As we take time to contemplate where we are going on our life’s journeys, we know that we have an ever present companion — God.”

          The monthly prayer read: Dear God, Your steadfast love is my support and my reassurance. Gently enfolded in Your divine embrace, I am protected, strengthened, and healed.”

          Yes, I know that God is with us, guiding us and protecting us, and I trust Him to bring us safely off this mountain. In fact, I remembered that the Power, in my “Transformation’s Twelve

Powers Process,” for July is Strength, and I had suspected that I might have reason to call upon  this Power, as we traveled The Rockies. But, I hadn’t realized that we would be traveling the length, rather than across them. At least that’s how it seemed to us, as we traversed the never-ending Highway 92.

          I recalled that I had suggested to Van, when looking at the map, that we could cross from this highway to Highway 50 at Cimmaron, but we never found such a place, because the lines on the map did not account for us being thousands of feet high with a lake between the two highways. So, I kept reading, and one of the magazines quoted author Dr. Rollo May:

          “Freedom means openness, a readiness to grow. It means being flexible, ready to change for the sake of greater human values. Freedom is man’s capacity to take a hand in his own development. It is our capacity to mold ourselves. That consciousness of self and freedom go together is shown in the fact that the less self-awareness a person has, the more he is un-free. As a person gains more consciousness of self, his range of choice and his freedom proportionately increase. Freedom is cumulative: one choice made with an element of freedom makes greater freedom possible for the next choice. Each exercise of freedom enlarges the circle of one’s self.”

          Now, I understood why we had been guided to take this trepulous route over the high places, and why it had to last forever; or until we got the message that inner freedom comes from our faith and trust in God to see us through the high places, as well as the low places.

The Low Places

          Once we finally reached the bottom of the mountain and crossed the dam of the Cueracanti Reservoir, we began to relax and laugh, as we recalled our fears and the obvious lessons involved. And Van–Little Ralph realized that in the future he must ask more questions, and be willing to turn back when the way does not seem appropriate for us.

          One thing for sure, we were done with adventuring through high mountain roads, and we were happy to drive safely along the Cueracanti Reservoir to Elk Creek Park, where we had stayed another time, and gladly pay our $5.00 for the night, a 1/2-price fee resulting from our Golden Age Pass for National Forests.

          Our site overlooked the tranquil reservoir and mesas above us, and despite no trees we were happy in our lowland spot. Furthermore, the cloud layer had cooled off the temps to a comfortable 80-degrees and I fixed the next version of our July Fouth meals: a burrito, salad and tortilla chips.

          Later, when we took a walk around the park, midst many RVers who had been enjoying the water sports, or simply relaxing, I said to Van, “I’ll bet none of thesr RVers came over Highway 92.”

          He chuckled, as he replied, “Probably not, and I hope you enjoyed the trip, because we won’t be going that way again.”

          I laughed and said, “Oh, heck, I was thinking we could go back the other way and see the view from that direction,” adding, “besides, we would be on the inside of the road, and it wouldn’t be quite so scary.”

          He laughed and laughed, and so did I.

          But I knew that more was going on with Little Ralph on that mountain and it wasn’t funny, because he was literally paralyzed. He was nearly unable to move forward, much like he’d been going through in the years after his downsize job-layoff from his computer programmer-analyst job in Corporate America. And he did comment, after we’d gotten off the mountain, that he’d been having this reaction to heights, but it was much better since using OPC-3, a product that we sell, as distributors in a networking product brokerage company.

Chapter 3

A MOUNTAIN OF ANOTHER KIND

Defense Mechanisms on a Roll

          I’d been looking forward to our four nights and five days at Blue Mesa Ranch Resort, a coupon treat given to us by our son-in-law, Steve. It’s an RV resort that you buy into, and part of the agreement is to listen to their sales pitch. We’d been to another one and decided never to go again, but we figured it was worth the time to enjoy the free stay and activities.

          But, when we drove through the gates of this 5-Star Resort, everything changed, and it’s this that we must examine more deeply, because God had guided us to this mountain too.

          Everything seemed okay when the gate attendant instructed us to park and go into the office to register, but from there something happened and by the time we left the office, I knew we were again at the top of another mountain, and I wondered how long we would wind along its contour, before finally coming down.

          As I observed Van turning into his efficient businesslike-self, which I hadn’t seen in years, I began to understand that he had become overwhelmed by all the information being presented to us and resorted to his defense mechanism. Also, I understood that his non-social syndrome had been triggered, as he listened to all the social functions that we faced, which brought forth his Diversionary Tactic: checking e-mail, which he discovered couldn’t be done from here; calling Dottie about business and finding that he could hardly hear due to the weak signal; and successfully mailing a letter that wouldn’t go out until the next morning.

The Snowball Stops

          I realize that all these were reasonable, but I’ve lived with Van enough years to recognize the signs that something is not right with him, or more likely Little Ralph was suffering. So, I brought the matter to his attention, and like a rolling snowball gathering momentum and hitting a solid barrier, he got it, and changed his approach. Thank goodness, because in the past it would have been impossible to have any fun, so we might as well have left; but with his recognitionand change of the passive-aggressive behavior, we could stay and look forward to the possibility of having a good time.

The First Social Event

          And the first challenge came when we went to the first activity: a BBQ in the Assembly Hall. Actually, we’d met a couple, Barbara and Everett from Moab, Utah, who were checking in after us, and we’d asked if we could ride with them to the marina the next day, to which they agreed.

          We met them walking to the BBQ, so walked along together and then sat at the same table for a pleasant mealtime, as we ate a delicious steak dinner for only $5.50 each. However, they left to go to Gunnison — eleven-miles east — and we stayed to watch the RV Travelogue of a an RV piggy-back trip into Mexico. It’s a good thing we watched, because we’ll never take such a trip. For one thing it’s expensive, but it also involves driving above Copper Canyon, which is four times bigger than the Grand Canyon. It looked fascinating, but that’s the closest we’ll get to it.

          Van managed to eat and visit, which is extremely difficult for him, and the social aspect of the evening went extremely well, indicating that he was actually making an effort in this regard. Again, God had taken us through another mountain; and there were more to come during the next five days.

All of the Above?

          In fact, I was having my own reaction to the high altitude, which causes me to feel spinny and have uncomfortable head pressures that affect my disposition. I haven’t figured out if it’s the heat, the altitude, something I eat, stress, or all of the above. I only know that I’m anxious to get out of the high altitudes in order to eliminate that problem, and to find cooler weather to solve that part of the problem. Keeping the stress down and my diet somewhat stabilized should take care of the rest of the antagonisms. It’s still terribly uncomfortable and the high altitudes and barometric changes seem to be the main culprits.

The Weaning Process

          Preparation for the next day occupied Van’s attention, which in the past would have been another triggering for his Survival Mechanisms, but after our talk, he seemed to be okay, and by the time we left the next morning, he had handled important matters, such as water, while we corroborated on food and comfort items.

          I noticed that we both felt uneasy being away from the comfort and convenience of  having our home with us wherever we go. Yet, I knew that this weaning process was part of our inner child recovery.

          When we were checking in, the day before, I’d asked the receptionist if there was a shuttle to take us to the marina, and she said “No.”

          I asked “How do we get there?”She said, “Well, these people behind you are checking in, maybe you can ride withthem.”

          I tried to convince Van to ask them, when we were outside, but he refused. I’ve taken on his non-social persona, so we both have become people shy. But I felt prompted to ask them, anyway, and they agreed.

          Barbara and Everett, and only a few spaces from our site, are special folks, and gracious neighbors, so we truly appreciated their generosity in giving us transportation both ways, and also the next day to the Black Canyon Boat Tour.

Lolling on the Water

          Once at the marina, they and their aging golden pug dog, Brewster, happily headed to the east lake and we went to big lake to the west, because we tend to enjoy covering a lot of distance, rather than relaxing in one place. So we went for the long-haul to the other end of Colorado’s largest lake (20-miles altogether). Van had asked the assistant where would be a good place to spend the time on our pontoon boat, and had been told about several coves in that direction, but our objective was to reach the dam.

          Van and I aren’t used to this sort of relaxing pastime and it was an adjustment, but one we didn’t mind making, as Little Ralph indolently steered the low-maintenance boat and Ienjoyed the comfort of the canvas canopy and cool breeze, while lounging against the cushioned back bench and watching the boaters and scenery. Most folks were fishing or lolling quietly one place, but some speedboats would leave a forceful wake and cause everyone to rock and roll as the waves thrashed across the lake.

          Because I soon felt the discomfort of needing a potty, we decided to travel at full speed,which isn’t all that fast, but got us to the marina at the west end of the lake in time to return by

the 2:00 departure requested by Barbara and Everett. We felt that would be enough time for us too, but we didn’t know it would take us two-hours each way, plus the 1/2 hour while I walked up the hill to the restroom in the hot noon sun, which I offset buying an ice cream bar. Had we more time, we would have explored the arm of the lake that extends under the highway and to the south, which would have used our allotted time, until 5:30.

          However, as usual, God’s time is the best time, and He was surely guiding Barbara and Everett, as well as us, because we had no more than gotten home, before the cloud covering and eventually the thunder began. We were happy to be home, even if it was still extremely hot, contrasted to the cool lake breeze. Fortunately, our AC works fine on the electrical hook-up and we relaxed and ate lunch.

Meals and Entertainment

          As mentioned, the first night we met with Barbara and Everett for a delicious BBQ steak dinner, which was so good that Van and I decided to repeat on another night. But we skipped the pizza dinner, because we had recently eaten Beau Jo’s incomparable  mountain pie and we knew it wouldn’t be as good. Even though it’s cooked on the spot, when I looked at the leftovers, on our way to the movie night, I knew I’d made a good decision; at least for us.

          I felt good that we were becoming proficient in our decision-making, although I questioned the wisdom of attending the movie, “Gordy,” about a pig who makes it big time. The kids attending the movie seemed to be enjoying it, but our adults were uneasy. However, Joanie and Little Ralph insisted on staying for the entire movie; maybe it was the popcorn that kept us there, but we did stay; and after all, it was free.

          On the other hand, our adults enjoyed the Travelogue about piggy-back RVing in Mexico, where the RV’s are loaded onto a train flatbed for parts of the trip. We agreed that it’s the only way we would take that trip, but the scenery was excellent and worth the time to watch someone else’s journey.

          It may seem perfectly normal for RVers, or most other people, to be doing these activities, but it has not been part of our agenda, because of Van’s non-social status. And,accordingly, I had succumbed to his position, rather than lifting him up to mine. Yet, this time hewas enjoying them, which made the participation much more enjoyable for me. And it seemed as if we had reached another new level in our relationship.

Communications and Logistics

          We were discovering that communications and logistics for this program left a lot to be

desired. For instance, we had been told about the 237 steps down into the canyon (and back up)and the 3/4-mile walk along the canyon floor to the tour boat dock. And we had been told that the tour left at 10:00 a.m., but Barbara and Everett were not clear that the departure time was from the dock, an extra hour from the parking lot; and it would take about 1/2-hour to drive the fifteen-miles to the parking area.

          So when they said to meet them at 9:30, I was feeling uneasy, because I suspected thatwe would need an extra hour, but they didn’t feel it necessary to ask questions and clarify. However, I did, and I urged Van to ask the gate attendant when we were returning from themovie.

          Sure enough, the departure time was from the dock, and we were told to bring water and snacks, which indicated to me that there probably wasn’t a tour boat with food and toilets.

          On our way home, we knocked on their door, but no one answered. They had alreadygone to bed early, after the big day on the lake, and they didn’t respond, even though Brewsterbarked loudly.

          In the past, I would fret over this situation, but Van agreed to return to their trailer the next morning in time to leave earlier, which he did; and we did.

          When we bumped down the sparsely graveled road to the parking lot, and curved ondown the steep hill, we again wondered why they didn’t offer a shuttle, because an RV wouldn’t make it beyond the first lot for trailers, and it was a very long, steep road down to the next parking lot.

          At this time, we again thanked Barbara and Everett for the ride, as we made our way tothe last, and nearly full, parking lot, and we continued thanking them as we walked down the

237 steps, and several more times as we climbed up those Stairs from Hell.

          Needless to say, only younger folks enjoy the privilege of taking this tour, and on the return, we wondered if we would make it, and certain that this would be our last such venture. It wasn’t only the climb, but the heat and the altitude shift of at least 1,000 ft. Of course, we did okay going down and walking the 3/4-miles, but going up was a different matter, and we were thankful that Barbara and Everett reassured us to take our time and rest, which we gladly did.

Actually, so did they, as they are not all that much younger than us, and they both smoke, which makes it harder. Barbara was convinced that they should put in a tram, or at least a lift.

          I really worried about Van, because of his emphysema, which limits his breathing, but we both took our time and rested. Even so, near the top, where there was no shade or benches, I began to feel nauseous and wondered if I were going to have a heart attack. But, I made it to some shade and stopped awhile, noticing that we were nearly to the top, which gave me a second wind to reach the parking lot where Everett had turned on the AC.

          Isn’t it wonderful the angels that God brings into our lives just when we need them? I’d had the Tour Guide take a picture of the four of us, and offered to send it to them, but they didn’t seem interested, nor did they have a computer to see the pictures. Although they talked about their family, I was beginning to wonder, maybe they really were angels and would disappear when we left. After all, they did arrive when we did, and would be leaving the same day that we  leave.

Magnificent!

          Of course, the steep steps should be the least memorable part of this trip, because the scenery far exceeds anything else. Remember, now we are at the bottom of the same Black Canyon that we drove along part of the top of on Highway 92, so we are looking up at the magnificent rock walls and formations from the roaring Gunnison River, which has been dammed in several places, forming the lakes that I had looked down upon.

          I grew up in country with rock formations, so they always fascinate me, especially these massive ones. For instance, one enormous wall, gives the impression of a giant stone plate, is named Moses Page One, because of the Ten Commandments having been written on stone plates; but surely not this big.

          Another rock formation, Curecanti Needle, was the logo for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, which once ran through this canyon, before the dams flooded over it. And a beautiful waterfall, cascading over the rocks, is named after Chief Ouray’s wife, Chapita, who often accompanied him to Washington D.C. on Indian Affairs, and she was highly regarded by everyone, most of all the chief, who treated her as an equal, unheard of in those days, especially within the Indian tribes.          

          The interpreter gave an informative explanation of the canyon’s origins, and also the interesting history of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. Rudyard Kipling rode the train and the writer described the journey with colorful words of beauty, and also sheer terror, riding along the narrow track, above the roaring Gunnison River. In fact, many people fell to their death along this route.

          Questions were invited, and an inquisitive youngster asked why there were so many logs in the water The guide explained, “There is no place else for it to go,” and we could see that when the trees that grew on part of the steep mountain were hit by lightning or perhaps became uprooted from rain, they would roll all the way to the bottom.

          Another boy answered several of the questions asked by the guide, and we were impressed with his knowledge of  nature, such as lichen being a fungus growing symbiotically in combination with algae. I didn’t know that, but I do now.

          On the return trip, the speaker was turned off, and the speed increased, but we were able to enjoy the intense, yet calm energies of the canyon and river, as we watched for elusive wildlife. Although the guide told of seeing a bear on the previous day’s trip, we were privileged to see a golden eagle in flight high above the jagged rocks; a John Denver moment.

          For many years, I’d wanted to take the canyon ride from Laughlin to Lake Havasu, Arizona, through similar scenery, but we’d never made it. Now, I cherished this free tour, truly a gift from God, and I hated to see the trip end, as we sped across the soothing waters. But we had turned around, before seeing Morrow Dam, the first of three, and for which the backed up waters are named Morrow Lake, though it’s all formed from the Gunnison River.

          The inquisitive youngster had asked how the pontoon boat got there, and was told that it’s hoisted in and out of the water each season by a giant crane at the dam, where it is stored off-season. Now, that’s important information, added to the fact that any boat on this river must be hand carried down — and up — the steep path we used, or another trail that comes down themountain near Highway 92.

          Indeed, as we’d been climbing an internal mountain of another kind, we were definitely in a hole of another kind, but again, it was not a negative experience.  In fact, to me the most fascinating story was about the hermit who lived in the canyon for over forty-years, by his own choice when he arrived in his late forties. Other than the railroad crew, who stopped to visit, often bringing him sugar and flour, along with newspapers, he saw no one. He finally died of pneumonia, at the age of 87, in a Gunnison hospital, where the railroad crew took him when they discovered that he was  ill. The location where he lived is called Hermits Rest.

One Way Out: UP!

          Listening to his story reminded me of Little Ralph in his hole, when Van first found him, and I wondered if, perhaps, he wasn’t really a lonely waif, but simply there because it’s where he chose to be, much like the hermit of the Black Canyon.

          Yet, as much as I enjoyed this boat tour, I wouldn’t want to live here forever; I would feel trapped and isolated. So, with the train long ago ended, and the tracks buried under the backwaters of the dam, there was only one way out; and that was up, as described earlier.

          And the same is true for anyone emerging from their personal hole, whether it be an inner child or ego arising to new levels of self-esteem and confidence. For instance, now that we had begun to feel more at ease, we were coming from choice about our stay at the “Five Star Blue Mesa Ranch RV Resort.”

          In fact, we were beginning to notice some flaws in the overall picture, which added to our choices about our lifestyle. For instance, we actually prefer the freedom of selecting where we stay, rather than being married to one organization, such as this one; an opinion shared by Barbara and Everett, as we discussed the upcoming presentation, which allows the company to be reimbursed for their free coupon gifts, such as we were enjoying.

          It was fun for a few days, but, as mentioned, we wondered why they didn’t offer shuttle service, and when we arrived for the second RV Travelogue, listed in our program, we were told, “There isn’t one.” And when the program was mentioned, we were told, “Oh, that’s an old one.”Is this a “Five-Star” attitude? Maybe they need to come out of their hole.

          Matters got worse when I was enjoying the AC, while writing on the computer, with the TV on low, for the news and weather update. Suddenly everything went off, except my computer, thanks to the battery feature kicking in.

          Van had gone for a shower, looking forward to more luxury than our small one, so I turned everything off and opened the windows, happy that the afternoon breeze had come up. I began wondering if we were going over another mountain; this one about our being so dependent on each other. I mean, Van couldn’t even go to a shower, without something going wrong and me coming to a standstill. True, I could still use my computer, but the heat affects my thinking, so I simply stopped.

          When Van returned, he checked the electricity connection and our fuses. Nothing was wrong. Then he saw several neighbors outside and asked them if they had electricity. Theirs was off too. OOPS!

          This meant something was wrong with the electricity, so on our way to the second BBQ, we saw a truck from the local electrical company and told the driver the problem. “We’ll get it fixed,” he assured us, adding, “I’m meeting the maintenance man now.”

          After our BBQ, we returned early, since there was no Travelogue, and stopped by Barbara and Everett’s to arrange for a ride to Pappy’s, for our free dinner at the marina, the next

night. They weren’t watching The Rockies baseball, as planned, and informed us there power was off too. So Van agreed to return to the gate attendant to ask about the electricity, and I opted to return home. On the way, I passed a member of the staff driving by in a car and he informed us that they had discovered the problem and the power would soon be on.

          When Van returned, he said the man told him it was the transformer, and wouldn’t take long, so rather than disconnect the electricity and turn on our inverter to use our own power to watch TV, we relaxed and chatted awhile, with a refreshing breeze coming through the open door and windows.

          Again, this may sound perfectly normal, but for us it was different, allowing us time to be in the moment with each other. Van seemed comfortable, unlike his former reaction to this kind of intimacy, but I felt uneasy, indicating that again I had succumbed to his patterns. Amazing, considering the years that I’d bemoaned the lack of such moments in our lives. Now, I felt like going to sleep, but I also thought I should keep him company, because he had to stay up another hour, before taking his evening shot of Prime.

          About this time the power came on and the situation was resolved by our watching TVfor another hour. But I’d begun to notice that Van had been changing a lot during this 5-day interlude. He seemed happier, freer, more relaxed, and more taking charge of such things as the power shortage, and his relationship with me was improving immensely. Could it be the relaxed environment, or was Little Ralph truly coming out of his hole?

          When I asked Van if he thought Little Ralph’s hole was comparable to the hermit living in the canyon, he said, “Could be.”This made me wonder if we were simply on two different paths, and that expecting him to come out of his hole was a fruitless effort.

The Sales Pitch

          In any event, it looked like we were coming down from this internal mountain, but we still had one more curve, and that was the Sunday morning presentation by the sales force, a challenge we dreaded, having gone through a similar one in Arizona. Also, I’d been watching one in progress the day we arrived, with 5-6 tables, each occupied by a couple and sales rep. One lady seemed quieter, but the rest were the usual high-powered type, so I figured that it would be  about like coming around the last curve on the mountain; we’d simply have to endure, until it was over. And then we would have our last evening’s treat: dinner at Pappy’s.

          I must admit, Western Horizons has an outstanding plan, and if we were to buy one, it makes sense, though nearly $6,000.00, but offering free parking. However, we’re not into the regimentation of 14 days in, and 7 days out, plus other requirements, such as reservations.           

          Yes, the security and other conveniences are tempting, especially when the presenter told us that Wal-Mart will be charging about $600.00 a year for RVers to stay on their parking lots, and if they aren’t members, they will be towed away at the RVers expense, or we would be rudely awakened by a loud knock on our door in the middle of the night.

          Apparently this policy is happening as the result of a couple who was murdered at one in Tucson and their family is suing Wal-Mart, because the store didn’t have security.           

          Also, he mentioned that some RVers dump their sewage on the Wal-Mart parking lot in the middle of the night, raising the insurance and forcing them to compensate with the RVers being charged. It’s such a shame that a few spoil life for the rest. Yet, for us the freedom of our lifestyle is what works, so when the pressure was put on for us to sign-up, we said “No.” Of course, they were done with us, but at least we were able to leave; much like reaching the bottom of the mountain and the joy of crossing the dam and taking Highway 50.

The Question

          But, I still had to ask myself several serious questions: Would I really enjoy the lifestyle of staying in these membership parks, if we had the money? Or, am I ready to settle down, either in a permanent park, such as Bonnie’s in Washington, or Trailer Rancho, where we’d stayed a month in Southern California? Or, would I enjoy the retirement manor in Laguna Niguel that Cousin John is offering? Perhaps continuing to travel from place to place, like we’re doing, is the best lifestyle for us?

The Answer

          I would know much more about my answer by the time this trip is over, because we would have the opportunity to try all of the above, plus much more.

 At least we had one more night here, and we still had the free dinner at Pappy’s, before moving on.

They Signed Up!

          When Barbara and Everett stopped to pick us up for the drive to Pappy’s, at Elk Creek Marina, I could hardly wait to hear their report of  the sales presentation, so we couldcommiserate over the virtues of the freedom we agreed that we enjoyed. However, I couldn’t believe my ears when they said they had signed up for the program. All we could do was congratulate them and wish them happy traveling, as we discussed the attributes of the membership program, while eating a delicious meal at Pappy’s.

          In fact, I enjoyed the best fried jumbo gulf shrimp I’d ever eaten anyplace, while Van and Barbara ate a huge pink Rocky Mountain trout they said was delicious, and Everett savored a huge chicken fried steak.

          After we said our good-byes, I contemplated the travel and parking options Barbara and Everett had before them, compared to those we would be facing, such as Wal-Mart parking lots and Flying J truck stops. And we would also be staying at National Parks for 1/2 price with our Golden Age Passports. However, we were especially looking forward to visiting family and friends in California, Oregon and Washington, which would take us until we would return to southern California for winter at our favorite RV park. Sounds good to me, and we’ll take you along with us.

Happy Memories

          The last morning Van and I busied ourselves with preparations to leave Blue Mesa

Ranch: I spent several hours on the computer, then vacuumed, before Van unplugged the

electricity. He shook the rugs, among his other departure duties, and soon we were on our way,

past Blue Mesa Lake where we had parked overnight, and then spent a day on the pontoon boat, and past Pine Creek Trail, where we had descended and ascended the 237 steps for the boat tour of Black Canyon, and then onward and upward, west along Highway 50, as we talked about the many happy memories of our four days and five nights at the five-star RV resort.

Still in The Rockies

          As always we also looked forward to the next part of our travels, while enjoy the present

moment. Now, we were reminded that we weren’t out of the mountains, yet. In fact, we wound

our way up and down through another canyon, following another alpine stream, over more hills

and valleys, including the ones that I had spotted from Highway 92, which I could now see from

a more comfortable viewpoint. At times, as we traveled the 40-miles to Montrose, we could see

the towering, jagged rock walls of Black Canyon, and at Cimarron we took the one-mile side trip

to Morrow Dam, which forms the lake where the boat tour had turned around.

          This time I played it smart and asked the ranger at the Visitor’s Center if the road was

okay for a large RV and if there was a place to turn around. She said, “Yes,” but when the

narrow road, following another canyon and creek, narrowed to a single lane, I wondered if we’d

made another mistake. As long as a vehicle didn’t come along, we were okay, and fortunately it

didn’t, but we were holding our breath, as we viewed more high jagged rock formations and

walls; truly a beautiful drive.

          Soon we reached the reason for our side trip; not the dam, which we could see the top of,

but one of the engines and several cars of the original narrow-gauge Denver & Rio Grande RR

perched on a high trestle over the roaring creek below. I took several pictures of Little Ralph

standing by it, and he took one of me dwarfed in front of the high rocky canyon walls.

          On the return trip, we were enthralled by the hillsides glistening in the intense sun, as if

reflecting from silver or gold; but we assumed it was only mica, an aluminum silicate mineral

used in insulation. Imagine how exciting it would be if that were really gold or silver, as it once

was when these mountains were alive with miners.

          But, for us now, the wealth was in the form of the spectacular scenery, including distant

snow-capped mountains beyond verdant green valleys. We were still in The Rockies, and we had to climb four steep miles to the Cerros Summit, which Little Ralph reminded me had to be

crossed by the trains, with four engines to pull them.

Back to Civilization

          At the Visitor’s Center I’d asked the ranger for the source of Rudyard Kipling’s quote

about taking the narrow gauge railroad through the Black Canyon, but she couldn’t find that

information and suggested we go to the Railroad Museum in Montrose, which I’d planned to do.

However, once on the western slope of the mountain, my cellular phone signal returned, beeping to let me know that I had a message. It was from my cousin, Marilyn, in Oregon, to let me know that my Aunt Betty (mother’s sister) was dying. Since the signal quickly died, as we rounded more curves and hills between us and the signal dish, I waited for a more stable time to call her.

          About here we passed the turn-off to Black Canyon Lookout Point, which we’d once taken, and promised, “Never again in an RV.” It was from the south rim, opposite Highway 92, along the north rim, and the road was just as bad, only much shorter. The spectacular view overlooked the lake where we’d taken the boat tour, only closer to the dam, and across to the north rim. But the day we went the fog had set in and we could hardly see the view, until finally the fog lifted somewhat. Nevertheless, we saw enough that we certainly didn’t feel the least inclined to return.

          I’d also had a missed call from Dottie, so when the signal returned, once we’d reached the flatland, I called her. We were chatting about the business and the possibility that they’d found their new home, and other family news when Van reached the outskirts of Montrose and continued driving.

          But, he became confused and I could tell that Little Ralph wanted my attention, because his energies shifted and he kept interrupting me. Also, his driving became erratic and he almost ran into a car that had stopped to make a turn. So, my conversation was interspersed with responses and comments to him, however, I didn’t want to hang up in the middle of the important news that Dottie was trying to pass along, including a report of the terrible storm that had hit the previous day and the fact that their electricity had gone out a few minutes before I called. Yet, she was able to use one of her phones, but nothing else, so she was momentarily at a standstill, and willing to talk a few minutes.

          The traffic had become hectic and Van reached a fork-in-the-road and took the wrong one, so had to go around the block in order to get on the right road to Wal-Mart, where we planned to stay for the night. Finally, he made it to Wal-Mart, but the parking lot was quite filled, and, as usual, he  wanted me to give him directions where to park. I said, “Just park anyplace, until I can finish my phone call,” but he kept going and headed for a large spot next to another RV. However, the driver waved him out of the way, because he was saving the place for his buddy, driving anotherone.

          Next thing I knew, Little Ralph had gotten himself into a bind that he couldn’t get out of,and I said, “Just stay parked here, until I get off the phone.”

          “I’m trying to get away from this car trouble,” he said.

          “What car trouble?”

          “Next to us.”

          I looked out the window and he was tight beside a car that had a terrible scratch along itsside, and Little Ralph was mumbling something else, so I got off the phone and guided him to back up and stay put in an open place.

          Once settled, he explained that the second RV had tried to push its way through that narrow space on its way to the saved spot, but he had scraped the car, without knowing it. An employee had seen it happen and went to tell him and they had returned to the car. Then the employee went inside and found the driver, probably announcing her license plate and car model.

          By this time, she came out and was devastated by the large gash in her late model car. So, for the next hour or so, the police came and a report was taken, while we watched all the activity and ate our sandwich, which I’d prepared while waiting for the ranger to return from lunch at the Visitor’s Center.

          I’d gotten so upset with Little Ralph that I was literally shaken, and he was so devastated over everything that he too, was unhinged; a rude awakening from our peaceful interlude in the mountains.

          Yet, I realized that this was another episode in Little Ralph’s internal mountain journey. The lesson being that in the event of another such incident when I’m on the phone and he’s confused, the best thing for him to do is park and wait for me to get off the phone.

A Major Change of Scene

          Fortunately, we seemed to be out of the external and internal mountains, but now we were on the edge of the desert, though surrounded by mountains, including the beautiful snow-capped San Juan’s, which we could see from our windows, while looking at the mesa of the desert from the side windows.

          All this is important, because of the weather factor. We were in a monsoon condition, which had caused the major storm in Denver the previous day. In fact, we’d been watching the news when it started, with the reports of the famous Cherry Creek Art Festival being destroyed by the horrendous winds and rain. The reporter had to call her story in from a phone, because it was too intense to be out in the storm, and she said that she could hear the pottery and artworkcrashing onto the street, as the vendors livelihood was being destroyed.

          It was truly a monumental storm, the worst since 1987, and they feared another would come in the next day, which was now. Denver seemed to be spared this second storm, but we were surrounded by dark clouds and lightning, as thunder rolled overhead. We went inside,during the first rainstorm, but we watched the rest of evening, as jagged lightning raced downward across the sky, above the mountains and desert. And thank God, it didn’t come to this area. Again, God was guiding and protecting us.

          We went to bed, thankful to be complete with The Rocky Mountain part of our journey behind us. Now, we were ready to begin the journey through the Utah and Nevada deserts.

Chapter 4

THE HIGHS AND LOWS

Not More Mountains!

          I might as well accept the fact that this trip is going to be about highs and lows; not only

the external but internal; why else would I be guided to title the book, “Journey Out of The Hole”? And then be given an itinerary to cross The Rocky Mountains and The Sierras; not to mention two deserts. I’m sure this trip, as all of our trips, is to learn to trust God on a deeper level, as our inner kids are healing those deeply buried wounds.

          I know that the title refers to Little Ralph coming out of the hole, but whatever Van goes  through also affects me, so we are in this together; and Joanie is also experiencing issues to heal on a deeper level.

          So the joys and sorrows must be balanced with faith, as we depend totally upon God for our sustenance, guidance and protection. And it’s when I don’t feel His presence and support that I panic; or when I don’t follow it. Van too, though not on as committed a spiritual path, is recognizing the value of keeping attuned to his Inner Guidance.

The Call

          Despite the fact that we were in a valley, we found ourselves facing the first of many  mountains on the next phase of our westward journey. For instance, I had been asked to be available for a court phone testimonial in a lawsuit involving my cousin. His lawyer had called and taken the information and prepared me for the call. It was essential that the cellular phone had a strong signal, so we remained in Montrose and waited.

          An hour early, the lawyer called and said that they had been delayed and it might be the next day before my testimonial could be taken. I explained that we would need to remain here, in that event, because there would be no signal across the Utah desert. The lawyer said that he would see if the phone call could go ahead as planned.

          Van and I talked about the option of waiting another day, and concluded that our travels are always a matter of God’s timing, so either way would be okay.

The Outer Storm

          Yet, when the call came on schedule, we were relieved and ready to move forward; at least externally, as we began traveling through the valley toward Grand Junction. However, storms were brewing, within and without; the direction of neither being clearly discernible.

          For instance, when the fluffy clouds over the San Juan Mountains, to the south, thickened and eventually became darker, we didn’t worry, because we were heading north. But we kept our eyes on the heavy, dark clouds to the west that seemed to be moving northward with us. Looking ahead, we could see light fluffy clouds and blue skies toward Grand Junction, so we were optimistic about the timing and direction of our journey. That is, until we neared Delta, where rain and lightning appeared in the distance and became a downpour when we reached the town, with lightning bolts piercing the sky.

          All this time, we kept focused on the clearer skies to the north, but we were also aware of the menacing black clouds and lightning hovering over the mountains and canyons to the west, hoping to get ahead of them. Yet, the further we drove, the closer they came, and finally we were driving through heavy rain, which became so intense at the outskirts of Grand Junction that we pulled off at a City Market to let the storm pass. Wrong! The storm did not pass, and the clear skies soon darkened.

The Inner Storm

          As the outer storm worsened, my inner storm was following its course. I was feeling anxiety about the phone call, because the other lawyer had asked me two questions that I hadn’t  anticipated and I was not certain if my answers would cause problems. As my inner storm brewed, I’d become irritable with Van and acted out my anxiety on him, without being able to clearly define the problem, and therefore I was not able to release it.

          Van attempted to be pleasant and offset my attacks, but to no avail, and everything he did became cause for more irritation and anger from me. For instance, we stopped at the library tocheck my e-mail, but he didn’t know how to make the connection from their computer, and they had no phone outlet for our laptop. This put Van into discomfort, as he had to ask for help, whilelearning to operate the computer, a world that he had been part of creating. So, he too was going through an internal storm.

          I was relieved that I had only one message that required my response, because I was in no state of mind to cope with any further input or stress. I was inundated with the unknown status of the internal and external storms, and I was in overload; a dangerous condition, as Van well knows. For instance, when he was trying to park at City Market, during the heavy storm, again asking me for directions, I shouted at him to find a place and park, because I couldn’t deal with anything else. He’s seen me in that state of overload before, and quietly found a parking place, and then offered to take me to Burger King for something to eat; a wise move, since I require food for nurturing when I’m beyond my max.

Into the Storm

          Fortunately, when we returned to Freedom, the rain had subsided, and we began driving  through town toward I-70. Suddenly another downpour forced Van to pull over and stop, but it  lessened, so I urged him to go on, hoping to push through the storm, once we headed west, toward fairly clear skies. But it was still raining and the menacing dark clouds, which were hovering over the Colorado Canyon, to our left, were a constant threat, especially as the jagged lightning bolted toward the ground.

          Still, we expected to out-distance the storm into clear skies, as we headed west. Wrong  Again! This storm was here to stay, and it was getting worse, as the clear skies began to fade.  And then the freeway headed south and we were going right into the darkness and lightning, accompanied by rolling thunder and strong winds.

          Van had all he could do to keep Freedom on the road, as the semi-trucks zoomed by,  spraying us with even more water. This added more fuel to my anger, because Van had not taken care of getting our wiper repaired, so if he uses them, the left one sticks and he has to get out and loosen it. Therefore, he didn’t turn them on, instead peered through the window, its view obliterated by heavy rain.

Now What?

In the midst of all this, we were again climbing higher, through a rugged treeless terrain of hills and canyons. Finally, Van spotted a road to a dinosaur excavation site, drove to their vacated parking lot and stopped. Thank God! But now what?

          We had made a decision to travel through the desert at night, to avoid the intense heat of day, so now it was pitch black. But one thing for sure, we did not have to worry about the heat. In fact, were pleasantly cool. I began to question our criteria for this part of the trip: perhaps keeping cool wasn’t the priority.

          Our hopes of passing through this storm were gone, except for the fact that we could still see clear skies to the west; only we were heading southwest, into the storm.  So we were faced with whether to turn back, although we were about thirty-miles into the trip; or pushing onward. Of course, we could stay parked, but it felt so isolated that my already heightened fears couldn’t cope with anything more, so again, I urged Van to move forward, during a lull in the storm. I still held out for the fact that we would soon turn north, toward the clear skies, so he moved back into the freeway and inched his way, while truckers and speeding cars, continued to splash water in their wake.

Another Mistake?

          We were in totally desolate country; only bleak hills and canyons that we still climbed over or around, with black clouds, lightning and thunder taunting our decision to move through the storm. Furthermore, the clear skies had disappeared behind more dark clouds and lightning. Oh no! We’d made another mistake, and the worst part was that neither of us had felt any guidance or support from God, so we seemed to be on our own.

          This realization, added to my anxiety about the phone call, heightened my feelings of guilt, but I wasn’t aware of the triggering factor or the original cause, while my internal storm paralleled the external one. This was not a fun trip!

          And it got so much worse that Van pulled off onto one of the few places wide enough for our RV. I looked out the window and laughed as I read the sign: “You are now leaving Colorful  Colorado.” Good Heavens, we were literally stopped at the state line. Would our fate be that we

would never leave Colorado?

          By this time I was feeling somewhat subdued, because the heaviest part of the lightning had passed by, and now it was only heavy rain; an improvement at that. But, of course, it was dark and the wipers didn’t work, unless Van slowed way down, which he sometimes did, mostly at my insistence, if no one was behind him.

          After awhile, he felt ready to move on, perhaps more internally than externally, and we  crossed the border into Utah, without much change; still climbing upward and around the hills and canyons, notorious in this part of Utah.

          Suddenly, coming up over a hill and beginning the downward curve, despite the obstructed view, we could see the red tail lights of several trucks parked on the right side of the road. But something else was happening!

          Somehow, I could see triangular orange warning reflectors posted on the left side of the road, and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, while Van negotiated the hazardous situation, I detected the white T-shirts of several men standing around an overturned car.

          I said a prayer, as we passed by, and Van said, “I think that’s the car with the racing stripes that whizzed past us about five-minutes ago, while we were parked.”

          We spent several miles trying to understand the sequence of events that allowed three trucks to be parked, and the drivers already out of their trucks and beside the overturned car. Finally, we remembered seeing blinking red lights in the distance, from a higher part of the highway, and we concluded that the trucks had already been there, and maybe the triangles too. So, perhaps the driver of the sports car, driving too fast , had been distracted, while coming around the turn, and simply drove off the highway and overturned.

          We felt sad about the mishap, and worried about the long distance we’d already driven from Grand Junction, taking so long for an ambulance, if needed.           

Memory and Memories

          I mentioned to Van that I’d been in a similar accident, as a teenager, when the car I was riding in went off a curve and overturned. But our youthful companions had turned it over, and we went on our way, so we hoped the same was true for these people.

          Yet, as Van and I talked about my accident, I began to wonder if we had actually turned over, or simply on our side. In any event, the six of us had survived, although one girl was in shock for several days, and of course, no one told our parents, so she didn’t get any medical attention. What a memory, but it was fading, over the years. This sent me into a momentary regret about the passing of time and the aging factor, but I don’t allow myself to dwell on this, so we continued being in the present moment.

          By now, the highway had finally headed west, and away from the storm, but we could still see lightning bolts to the northwest, as light rain continued falling. And then, further west, it stopped. Not only did it stop, but the combination of fading sunlight and clouds provided a glorious sunset of colors from purple, lavender and pink to deep shades of red and maroon, with golden highlights.

Higher and Higher

          But our journey was barely under way, because we’d opted to drive through the night, until we reached Nephi, where we would stop at Flying J for the rest of night.

          Another instance of my fading memory came to haunt me when we began climbing another mountain. Of course, it was so dark that we couldn’t see anything, but I said to Van, “I don’t remember any more high mountains on this highway. In fact, I thought it was a pleasant trip last time we came this way. “

          “Oh, yes, there were mountains,” he said, adding, “remember, we came north, from Moab, where Barbara and Everett live, to I-70, and enjoyed this scenic daytime drive.”

          “I don’t remember, but I guess that’s why there are so many View Points, not that we could see anything tonight.” In fact, the trucks filled most of them, as the drivers were sleeping. And at one of them, Van stopped and took his Prime, in order to keep on the required schedule for his anti-aging formula.

          I thought, “Maybe that’s why his memory is improving. Not only that, but he’s been driving for about ten-hours, and he’s still going. And his disposition has improved immensely. I’m thinking Van is really in his Prime.”

          We had actually been on the road 12-hours, by the time we finally reached Nephi, without further incidence; only the never-ending mountains and then the downward trek that finally took us to the valley, and eventually to our destination for the night.

Fork-in-the-Road

          Nephi became a fork-in-the-road for us, on many levels. It started when Van took time to  study the Road Atlas, and then I stopped writing long enough for us to communicate; a unique concept.

          When Van pointed out that Highway 50, which I had selected, had more mountain passes, I started having second thoughts. Even though we hadn’t taken that route, I really felt done with the adventure of “exploring places never seen before,” as extolled by Willie Nelson’s song, and opted for the safer and saner I-80. And then I double-checked the Flying J Truck Stop, discovering that it was not in Ely, on Highway 50, but on I-80 at Wells.

          The significance of this change of plans, to me, is that our inner kids took some  responsibility: Little Ralph studied the map to familiarize himself with the route, and Joanie double-checked her Flying J List and discovered that she’d been mistaken.

          Okay, so now we had a new itinerary, which meant we would have to go through Provo and Salt Lake City, on I-15, a route that had left us with some bitter memories from another trip. But, rather than avoid it, this would be a good time to “come out of the hole” and create some new memories of this part of the trip. Joanie had already become committed to the new plans, because she likes to stop at Peppermill in Wendover, NV., just over the state line, for a buffet, so this meant we could have some fun and nurturing.

          While writing this chapter, at Nephi, I also had a realization about my internal journey. The reason I had become so upset over the phone call reverted to my childhood when I was supposed to “take care of ” my mommy, while Daddy was away at CCC Camp, and Mommy “went crazy,” which I assumed was all my fault, not understanding that it was the beginning of her schizophrenia, and certainly not my fault for not taking good care of her. I refer to this syndrome as my Responsibility Factor, and it gets triggered when I find myself in a situation when something important is all up to me, or I think it is.

          As I write, I haven’t heard whether or not my cousin’s situation was favorably resolved, but in any event, I know that it was not all up to me. He has his own consciousness and part in the outcome, and I was simply doing my part to help.

Re-Conditioning

          The problem with going through Salt Lake City is that our last trip had been unpleasant; in fact all of them had been difficult, so I’d hoped to avoid the city. But, we decided this would be an opportunity to change the pattern, since Joanie and Little Ralph had made so much improvement.

          Driving through Provo reminded me of the terrible weather conditions that had started our last escapade. Again, the wipers weren’t working properly and we could barely see through the heavy snow-rain. And the closer we got to Salt Lake City, the heavier the traffic congestion, because the freeways were being reconstructed. And once we finally got through town, and were driving along the lake, Freedom began to cough and choke, so we were creeping along at about 5-mph, with trucks swishing by.

          All this time, I had been snarling and growling at Van, because he hadn’t taken proper care of our RV (in my opinion). Poor Little Ralph took the beating, because it was part of his childhood conditioning, so he expected it. And, of course, because he expected it, that’s what he projected, and therefore someone had to fulfill his expectations. If it hadn’t been me, it would have been someone else. But, I was fully capable of the job, because his actions and behavior triggered my reactions, based on my childhood conditioning. It’s a vicious circle, and we all get caught up in the repercussions of our conditioning.                     

          In our case, Salt Lake City had become a triggering device, because it’s always congested  and hectic, which is surprising considering that it’s the Mormon’s Mecca, so the spiritual energies should be more intense than others. But, especially for me, it’s usually a negative experience.

          However, this time we were determined to change that pattern. Not that we could doanything about the traffic and congestion, but we could adjust our attitude, in addition to the inner work we’d already done.

More Re-Conditioning

          I’d heard that the highway construction through Salt Lake City had been completed, and we were disappointed to discover that it was now congesting traffic through Provo, and we realized that all the ado was in preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympics, which were only seven-months away. We could actually feel the high energies in the air, as Provo would be a big part of the winter activities.

          Despite the fact the freeways were now complete through Salt Lake City, the traffic  congestion was just as intense, and negotiating the interchanges is difficult, because they have no advance signs to make the changes. In fact, the sign for I-215 indicated the left lane, but by the time Van got over there, another sign showed that we must be in the right lane that he had just left, a stressful situation.

          As navigator, I tried to guide him through the many interchanges, as we wended our way to I-80 West. Yet, I’d noticed, about the time we went through Provo, that my head pressures had  begun again, making it difficult for me to think clearly. And, this is when I finally understood clearly, without doubt, that it’s definitely the energies of the Rocky Mountains that affect me.

          I knew, because I’d recently left the Denver area where energies bothered me the entire time, and then, while we were in Nephi, my head and body felt fine. But when we returned to these mountains, which tower above Provo all the way through Salt Lake City, my head pressures and other body reactions returned. Now, after reconstructing the pattern, I knew, without doubt that it’s the Rocky Mountains, because once we were out along the Salt Lake, the head pressures went away. I’ll admit the stress of the traffic congestion could be a factor, but I didn’t have that issue the entire time in the Denver area, so I’m convinced it’s the energies. And I also had the input from my mother and granddaughter, who have reported the same head and body reactions.

          Furthermore, the same thing happens when we park above the Pacific Ocean in Carlsbad, California. So, I’ll simply have to accept that fact about myself and my body, and adjust my life accordingly, which may mean that I cannot live in the Denver area. Looking back at The Rockies, I felt sadness, as we headed west, and I wondered if I’d ever see them again. It’s for sure I would need to seriously consider this factor, as I plan the rest of my life.

          But, for the Present Moment, it’s enough to know that overall, our passage through Salt Lake City to Wendover, NV went pleasantly and without mishap. And, as we passed Delle, where Van had finally pulled off to allow Freedom to rest, because the “check engine” light had been flashing, we were thankful, knowing that we had changed the conditioning that had caused Van to subconsciously create mechanical breakdowns. Now, he understood that it was his  love-association with his mother, based on her showing love by giving him money when needed for motorhome repairs. Fortunately, he recognized and changed that pattern, proven by the fact that he no longer needed to create Freedom’s breakdowns to be reassured of her love.

Truckers: Angels in Wendover

          Wendover always holds a magical charm for Joanie, ever since our first stop many years ago. It’s the buffet at the Peppermill Casino, a pleasantly gaudy place, featuring mirrors, fake  blossoming cherry trees, blinking lights, and a terrific buffet, catering to the many truckers, and

other travelers, who stop there. And that first time she won a small jackpot on a special slot machine that is no longer there; so she doesn’t gamble. But she loves the buffet, and so does Little Ralph, and he always comes out to play when we stop there.

          However, the time we stopped when Freedom was complaining, we had a different experience. Since I’ve written about it before, I’ll bottom-line by saying that an angel at the service station discovered that it was the fuel filter and he replaced it for $69.00, ending a problem that had been plaguing us for years: no oomph for Freedom. Needless to say, Wendover holds a special place in our hearts.

          And this trip was no exception, only it was an angel named Jack Wolf, who touched our  hearts by driving us to the casino from the Truck Driver’s Lounge, and then told us about the  laundry room and helping us to get our laundry transported back and forth. He was a pleasant and helpful angel who did far more than duty required of his job: driving a shuttle between the casinos and parking lot. Thank You, God, for Jack Wolf. He told us that he had retired from the military and driven an old RV for a few years, but then he decided that one mountain park looked about like another, so he sold the RV and rented an apartment. I really like Jack Wolf and I told him to look for his name in my book. He’ll probably never see it, but it’s here, along with our gratitude.

          But Jack wasn’t the only angel in the Trucker’s Lounge. It was full of them, because I have concluded that all truck drivers, no matter what, are angels. I reached this decision after our trip over I-70 when I began to really admire them for driving through all kinds of weather and all kinds of travel conditions. And I wanted to say “Thank You” to all of them for what they do. Like a sign along one of the highways says, “If you got it, a trucker brought it.” That’s right, so next time you see a trucker thank him.

          I did. His name was Steven, a pleasant fortyish family man, sitting in the lounge, while we waited for our clothes to get done. I asked him “Which direction did you come from?”

          “I came from Sacramento today,” he replied

          “How was the weather across the desert?” I asked

          “Oh, it was okay,” he replied, adding, “But I was in Oregon the other day and it was

pouring rain with thunder and lightning.”

          “I’m from Oregon,” I said, adding, “We’re on our way there now, after we visit my brother. He’s a forest lookout in Lassen National Forest.” Then I said, “You know I really want to thank you for the job you do, driving all over the country in all kinds of weather. I just don’t know how you do it.”

          “Oh, it pays the bills,” he replied.

          I guess that, for most of them, it’s just a job; one they are somehow able to fulfill. I know one thing, I don’t blame them for whatever it takes to survive the loneliness and frustrations of doing their job.

          The amazing part of this story is that the movie, “Michael,” came on the TV, and it’s about a very human angel, played by John Travolta. We watched together and laughed at his antics, and I felt a special kinship with this angel in the Truckers’ Lounge.

          And I want to say “Thank You” to all truck drivers. They need a tribute in their honor equal to the War Memorial, in my opinion, because no one ever acknowledges them for what they go through to make our lives better.

          Oh, yes, there were other drivers coming and going, throughout the evening, going to the showers, getting coffee, and one young man who spent the evening talking to someone special. This unusually handsome and gentle driver wore a baseball cap over his waist-length dark hair, and he smiled softly, at times, as he breached the lonely miles via the phone. At one point, while on hold, he commented about the movie, which he mostly blocked out, while living his own love story.

          Unlike one brusque fellow who tried to call home, only to be told his wife wasn’t there. But when he said, “Tell her her husband called,” he seemed to get through, and his main  communication was a business related message. Well, it takes all kinds, and I got an entirely new appreciation of these overworked and underpaid angels of the highway.

          When we finally returned to the truckers parking lot, a full block of asphalt, most of it was filled with groaning generators, but this time I felt thankful, instead of irritated, and I didn’t mind having to use my earplugs to soften the noise, as I went to sleep.

          As I drifted off, I remembered what the handsome trucker on the phone had said. Apparently he was on hold when I commented to Van about the weather, which he was watching on The Weather Channel, because the driver said, “It was raining so hard that I couldn’t see the car in front of me.”

          I asked, “Where?”

          He replied, “Salt Lake City; about two hours ago.”

          I’d been aghast, as I realized that we had been spared another ordeal in Salt Lake City, with our wipers still not working properly. Obviously, we were doing something right, and for sure God was guiding us with His perfect timing. Thank You, God.

Another Turn of Events

          Our plan had been to cross the Nevada desert in the cool of the night, so Van awoke about five in the morning and began driving across the desert. Of course, this isn’t very early to be covering such a long distance, but he prefers driving in daylight, so he made it to the Flying J in Wells, only about fifty-miles. Then he stopped to fuel Freedom and eat his breakfast, which he did in record time, while I updated my chapter and then took a shower.

          With our mind at ease about the weather conditions, relieved from the anxiety over the thunderheads and dark clouds we’d seen the night before, we ventured onward across the desert, and I figured that it had always been a good place to leave any negative energies, so I left mine there too.

          Unfortunately, we saw evidence that others were going through their own negative experiences. For instance, a semi-truck, going west, had gone off the road and completely overturned. I said a prayer for the driver, as we passed, and noticed that his load of boxes was being transferred to two smaller trucks. Of course, no matter what, the load must be delivered on schedule. We wondered what had happened to the driver, but there was no ambulance around, so we hoped all was okay, as we tried to figure out why the driver had gone off the road when there seemed to be no bad weather conditions. Perhaps it had happened much earlier and there had been stormy conditions such as we’d gone through the night before. Just one more reason to say

“God Bless Truck Drivers.”

          Not much further down the road, Van wondered why a train was in such a peculiar position, when he finally realized that it too had overturned, only it had not been recently, because the demolition crew was busily turning the cars into scrap metal. Once he figured out what he was seeing, he brought it to my attention in time for me to see some of the piled scrap metal and more overturned cars.

          It’s interesting that I had been commenting earlier that you never hear of any accidents involving trains, yet they have to forge through inclimate weather, too, but at least they are on a  track. In any event, it seemed to me that the railroad crews should also be remembered in our prayers.

The Easy Way

          As I momentarily thought about all the things that could happen, while traveling, I said to myself, “I let go and let God.”

          This reminded me that in my Belief System, July is the month for Strength and Courage, and also Inner and Outer Freedom, as well as Responsibility. It’s for sure, this trip had covered them all, and I remembered an article, “The Easy Way” by Lowell Fillmore, son of Unity’s founders, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, that I’d read while on Highway 92.

          Mr. Fillmore said that there are three ways that lead into life’s expression: One is easy and two are difficult. The one through the lowlands and valleys is when we have doubts, fears,  uncertainty and negative feelings of inferiority. The way over the mountains and hills of egotism, foolish pride, love of personal power, arrogance, haughtiness and self-sufficiency is the difficult road of the ego taking control. The level way is the easy way; it is the sane efficient way of thosewho realize that they are children of God inheriting all life, love, peace, power, wisdom and plenty from their loving Father, God. In other words, Lowell is talking about balance and order, rather than the extremes of highs or lows.

          I’m not sure if he would consider the desert to be a lowland, or not, even though the Nevada desert is quite high, but for us it was a place to follow the words of Isaiah 40: “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the uneven shall be made level, and the rough places a plain; and the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed,” which Mr. Fillmore says is “the straightforward highway of joy.”

Chapter 5

A SAFE, QUIET PLACE

The Rest Stop

          This chapter title evolves from my affirmative prayer when looking for a place to stop or stay: “Thank You, God for a safe, quiet, comfortable, clean place to stay.” The prayer originated when we traveled in a car and stayed at motels; since we now take our home with us, I’ve shortened the prayer.

          In retrospect, this part of our westward trip is about a place to stay, more than anything else, because fortunately the trip across the desert, through Reno, and to The Sierras was not especially noteworthy: a desert is a desert. So the unending road construction and the spectacular sunset were the highlights, other than a four-hour break at a Rest Area, east of Winnemucca.

          I’d wanted to update my story and complete chapter 4, before moving on, and God provided the first of our three stops: a safe, quiet, and cool oasis in the desert, under a tree where I fixed lunch and accomplished my writing, while Van relaxed and rested, once he’d written some checks. Life does go on, even while traveling, so we must to what we can where we can.

Winnemucca to Reno

          I get a kick out of the name Winnemucca, which served only as a fuel stop this trip, but it has some interesting memories from other trips. For instance, I came through the town at night on a train, in my twenties, on my way to Unity Village for spiritual training. The train had stopped and I looked out the window to see “Winnemucca” on the station, and I wondered “Where is Winnemucca?”

          My brother, Gary, had an opportunity to find out, many years ago, when a madam hired him to write her book, as he too is a writer. He lived and ate at the house, socializing with the girls and gathering material for the book, which never got published, because Madam, who was French, was deported. He still has the unpublished story, which I jokingly offered to put on my website. Okay, for those who can’t resist asking, the answer is that Gary did not touch the merchandise; he’s a highly disciplined catholic.

          I added that information to spice up the uneventful portion of our desert travels. Now, if you can get your imagination back into this story, I’ll continue with another memory. During our last trip, the one with the weather and wiper problems, through Salt Lake City, I’d been so angry with Van that I threatened a divorce, and suggested that he think about it, and we’d decide at Winnemucca, a fork-in-the-road, whether we’d stop in Reno and end our marriage, or go on to Oregon, as planned.

          So, having had time to cool off, by the time we reached Winnemucca, we discussed thesituation and decided to keep going, as planned, making some agreements that we felt would help our relationship. But that’s another story, which I’ve already written in “Ups and Downs of Traveling.”

          This trip we continued on to Reno, but not for a divorce. All we wanted here was a safe, quiet place to stay overnight. I might add that nowadays another criteria for us, on our Social Security Retirement funds, is that it be free, or low-cost, so that we can afford this traveling lifestyle. Usually, we stay at a Wal-Mart, Flying J Truck Stop, or a casino. Obviously, in Reno the choice would be a casino.

          By now it had become dark, and Van had been up since 5:00 a.m., driving most of that time, and we had been stressed over the last 30-miles of traveling through a long, steep, winding canyon, at night, and hampered by road construction. So when we suddenly hit the bright lights and added traffic of Reno, we were frazzled.

          Actually, we probably should have stopped at Winnemucca, but we wanted to get off the desert and end-cycle on this part of the trip. However, we had been getting travel-weary and had considered stopping at a casino, advertised on billboards along the highway, at Lovelock. So we took the business loop and quickly decided that there was no room at the Inn (Ramada), where the small casino-motel was located.

          It was here that we drove into the sunset, which was offset by more single-lane construction, and Van was the lead vehicle, followed by a dozen others, frustrated at the slow pace.

Reno’s Nugget

          As we entered town, the truck stops and a motel-casino truck and RV parking area were jammed, as we wended our way from I-80 to the Nugget Casino, a towering building, by the  freeway, and easy to find (thanks to a Welcome RVers sign).

           However, once into their ample, yet partially full RV parking lot, we realized that we were indeed, by the freeway, with its noise and exhaust fumes. And a train track went along the other side of this so-called respite. “Okay, God,” I said, “what about the quiet? And what about comfortable” (it was stifling hot). But, I was thankful to have this place, so opened the windows for some night air, put in my earplugs and went to sleep.

          But I awoke in the morning to overwhelming acceleration of exhaust fumes, because of the morning commute traffic. I quickly closed all windows, turned on the fan and went back to sleep. Fortunately, Van awoke fairly early and we were able to leave our “answer to prayer,” the Nugget, and move on, hopefully to quieter and more comfortable surroundings.

Getting on With Business

          But first we needed to handle some business: checking my email. In the past, we would avoid doing things, because we didn’t know where or how, or it was too complicated. Mostly it was Little Ralph’s influence, and Joanie went along with it. But now, I had a website, which could bring forth email messages, or even filling book orders, in time. So, we needed to develop the policy of tending to these business matters, despite the inconvenience.

          To change the “I don’t know how or where” pattern, I looked in our list of Kinko’s, and I called one. The pleasant manager gave me directions to her store, and I remembered to ask an important question: “Is there a place to park a 35 ft. RV?” You see, we were learning to ask the right questions.

          She replied, “Well, we’re downtown.”

          “Oh, oh, that won’t work,” I responded, and asked, “How about the other Kinko’s store?”

          “It’s in a mall,” she replied, “and there’s more parking available.”

          She again gave me excellent directions, which we easily followed, bringing us to the store, right next to Highway 395, which we would take to resume our travels; now northward.

          I took time to respond to some important messages, and send several others, but hadn’t done any work on my website, so didn’t need to publish this time.

          I want to take time to acknowledge Kinko’s for their excellent service, especially the free  access for laptops, to check email and other on-line activities. It’s made the difference for us to be able to continue this lifestyle and still take care of business. We were especially pleased with this S. Virginia Street store, because no loud music or freezing AC, which we’d encountered in some.

Hallelujah Junction

          Van too, changed some old patterns by asking directions to get onto Highway 395, and easily found the access. Well, actually, he made the wrong turn, but instead of beating himself up, he made the adjustment that took us to the on-ramp, and we were on our way, as he began singing, as he usually does when getting “On the Road Again.”

          The terrain had changed, and now, we were driving along the foothills of The Sierras, by a pleasant green valley, most of the time. There was an exception, which I’ll mention later. But first we stopped for gas.

          Learning to ask the right questions, Van had asked the inspector at the California bordercrossing, if Hallelujah Junction would be a good place to buy gas, rather than exiting and finding  the station inaccessible.

          Not only did he refuel, but he asked the clerk if we could park in their oversized lot long  enough to have lunch. And the clerk, replied, “You can stay for a week, if you want to.” That was good information, but we were ready to move on, once we’d eaten.

A Small Tornado

          Our enjoyment of the pleasant mountains, trees and valley became alerted by a sign warning that we could encounter gusty winds. At least we had been warned, and Van negotiated the several strong gusts quite nicely. However, when a small twirling dust tornado appeared along the highway, he grabbed the wheel tightly just in time. Suddenly the tornado crossed in front of us and he had to drive through, and maintain control. Much to his surprise, the clear turbulence, after the dust, rocked us more than the dust tornado. It was a scary sensation, and the nearest I want to experience a bigger tornado.

          Now, we were conditioned, and the fear of another bad encounter remained with us, off-setting our enjoyment of the scenery. And, in fact, several more windy gusts rocked us, but nothing like the dust tornado.

Signs of Other Near-disasters

          We passed through the peaceful town of Susanville, nestled at the foot of The Sierras, and the cross-roads of Highway 395 and Highway 44, and began one more steep mountain road. Soon we saw large ugly brown patches in the midst of the green forest, and I remembered that Gary had written about a terrible fire that had terrified the town. In fact, they had to evacuate everyone, including the hospital.

          Later, we learned from one of the forestry firefighters that they really weren’t able to do much, because the fire was at the door of the hospital, and if the wind hadn’t changed, the hospital, and the entire town would have been wiped out.

          Whew! A reminder that we never know just how close we are to a disaster. And it’s probably just as well, or our anxieties would be worse than they are already, in this day and age of instant news; and thus pre-conditioning to disaster.

          We passed several more large burnt patches, on our way to Bogard Forest Station, and were thankful for this sunny, fire-free day, as we pulled into the road along the caretaker home, where Gary had spent the winter, and his day’s off during the summer when he’s otherwise on the lookout.

Here I Am, Lord!

          I’d thought about titling this chapter “I am Here, Lord,” based on Samuel’s response when called upon by God. However, when I looked up the passage in my bible, the words were reversed, which altered what I wanted to say; that I am here, at the place I’d been guided.

          Nevertheless, the bible story seemed appropriate for this chapter and I read it, before starting my writing day. You may recall that Hannah, Samuel’s mother, who had remained childless, had promised that if God would give her a son, she would dedicate her son to the service of the Lord, living and working with the priest, Eli. So, when a baby, he was delivered to the priest, and there he lived, and eventually became a prophet. In other words, Samuel had been displaced, but learned to bloom where he had been planted; and that’s what we are doing, as God guides.

Bogard Forest Station

          Now, God had guided us to the Bogard Forest Station, and Gary had said that we might be able to use the RV hook-ups left from a by-gone day. However, as we pulled in front of his home, seeing his two campers, I momentarily thought maybe he was there, but then I remembered that he was driving his VW bus, which wasn’t there, so he was indeed, on the lookout.

          At the time I’d written to Gary and mailed the letter from Montrose, CO., I’d thought he would have plenty of time to get the letter, but having traveled that distance, I began to wonder about my judgment, because it was a long way, and even by airplane, the letter would have to find its way from one mountain town to another. Perhaps he hadn’t gotten my letter in time, and therefore arrangements had not been made for us to stay at the hook-ups.

          We looked at his driveway and concluded that we could park there, if necessary, though we wouldn’t have electricity, nor access to his house. Yet, we would be in this beautiful, quiet, safe setting in the forest.

          We’d noticed a ranger fueling a truck, and he now walked toward us, so we met him and I explained that I am Gary’s sister, and I mentioned his letter about the hook-ups, and also that my letter may not have reached him.

          The ranger, Speedy, said he would contact his boss, and also Gary (by radio), to see what could be arranged, asking that we park in the nearby parking area, in the meantime. Once moved, we got out and stood in the shade of the tall pine trees. And soon Speedy returned, all smiles, and said that another ranger, Randy, would show us where to hook up. Apparently he had gotten permission from his boss.

          We walked across the grounds to the office and Randy showed us the RV hook-ups, with an explanation, as we arrived at the eight sites. “They don’t use these anymore, and I haven’t seen anyone here since I’ve been here, so help yourself, and make yourselves at home.”

          We chatted awhile, as he explained that he’s Gary’s boss, and we laughed about Gary’scontradiction of liking isolation and yet loving to socialize. I suppose it’s because he’s alone so  much that when there’s someone around, he enjoys the companionship and communication. I recalled that we had once driven up to the lookout when we had a car, and about the last words we said were “Hello.” Gary took it from there, and was still talking, through the window, as we pulled out of the driveway, five hours later.

          As we chatted with Randy, I said, “I’ll easily remember your name, because my son’s name is Randy.”

          “Oh, that’s right, Gary said he has a nephew named Randy.” We watched the chipmunks skitter about, and talked about Gary’s family of chipmunks at the lookout, and at the house. “There are a lot of them here, because we feed them,” Randy explained.

A Sad Story

          A sad sidelight came to our attention when Van had asked Randy, “Why is the flag at half-mast?”      

    He looked down, as he replied, “Because four of our fighters were killed in Washington yesterday.” He then added, “They were young — 18 to 20 — just out of high school, except their leader, who was 31.”

          We too were distraught over the sad news, as Randy continued, “They got caught in a bad situation, much like the Colorado incident, where they couldn’t get out fast enough, ahead of the fire.”

          Later, Gary explained “The fire was traveling too fast, and they couldn’t outrun it in time to get to the river, although one of the others from the team did survive by getting to the river. The four who died had put on their survival tent that should have saved them in fires up to 400 degrees, but this fire was over 600 degrees and they were literally cremated.”

An Acknowledgment

          I know that people whose lives and homes are saved by firefighters appreciate them, and let them know with banners and sometimes celebrations in their honor. But overall, like the truck drivers and railroad workers that I’ve mentioned earlier, the firefighters and forest firefighters, as well as the lookouts, such as Gary, and the others, are taken for granted andseldom acknowledged for their unrelenting efforts at keeping the forests safe.

          For instance, Gary has been a forest lookout for nearly fifty-years, and no one says much about the long, lonely hours he spends in one room on top of a mountain, such as Harvey Mountain, where he is now. And, he has been on other mountains in California, Oregon and Washington.

          So, let’s give a hip hip hooray for the firefighters and forestry workers, and whenever you see one, tell them “Thank you, we appreciate what you do.”

          “Just let us know if there’s anything you need,” he said, as he returned to his office, and Van went to drive Freedom to the site. I looked around at the peaceful woods and quiet surroundings, and felt safe and secure. My anxiety about lightning strikes immediately subsided, as I noted that we were surrounded by firefighters, fire engines and other firefighting equipment.

          I guided Van into the parking space, and then, while he hooked up to the electricity, I plopped onto the couch and sighed, “Thank You, God, I am here.”

Chapter 6

MY BROTHER GARY’S WORLD

The following letter from Gary speaks for itself:

June 9, 01

 Hi Van & Sis,

          A G’Day to you both from atop this high citadel. Your letter & newsletters well-received & loaded with all kinds of stuff. Good to note you’re keeping busy & apparently enjoying all of it. Very sorry to read that you both got the “wog”, Aussie for “bug”. I pray you’re fitter by the time this reaches you. Thankfully, I’ve kept healthy thru the winter, though at times I thought I’d die from exertion from shoveling so much snow. We had some nippy days at Bogard, and at -l2o I was in no mood to go outside and frolic in the snow. One thing I’ll never repeat, and that is to head for town in an un-heated V.W. at -2o. Only five miles out my toes began to go numb & the ol veedub would only reach 40 mph. I stopped & u-turned back to Casa Bogard.

          If you’ve viewed any NBC news TV, particularly the Today Show, you’d have noted the horrific fire we had last week. We made the T.S. twice & Reno TV several times. The Devil Fire topped at around 4,525 acres & burned right up to the fringes of Susanville. Incredulous ~s it may seem the blaze was ignited by a stray bullet from a guy’s rifle who was out potshotting. Had he been using lead rounds instead of jacketed ones the fire wouldn’t have started.

     You talk about panic & hysteria. Susanville had it. Winds were howling at 4050 mph up here & thirty plus near S’ville. The 61 yr old man & his wife tried to extinguish the fire(a token effort I hear) but were burned in the attempt & had to flee for their lives. Took me about 20 minutes to view the smoke column which rose from the right side of Antelope Mtn. In minutes we realized we were in serious trouble. I’ve captured both audio & video coverage of the monster fire. The speed at which this fire raced was locomotive, as though it were consuming grass & not the timber it incinerated. Within hours it was zeroing in  on the NW side of the city. Evacuation became mandatory. Orders for crews numbering in the dozens as well as scores of engines, and a half-dozen air tankers plus a dozen & a half ‘copters & well over a thousand firefighters blurted from my F.S. radio. I’ve never heard the numbers rise so rapidly. Engines would come from’ as far as San Diego. Our Hotshot crew, still in training, got a crash course before Jaime(their leader) would allow his mostly neophyte crew to attack so fierce a blaze. This was some of the toughest firefighting imaginable with impossibly steep canyon walls above Chenney Creek & the Susan River. No mistakes would be allowed. If you get a chance to come here, you’ll see where the fire burned right up to the front lawns of a huge new home perched on a knoll above the river. A bevy of engines & multiple airdrops by ‘copters saved that big home. The same could be said of many other homes & bldgs on the outskirts of downtown. Smoke was so thick that day became like night. Fire agencies took over the comm. college, the high school and fairgrounds to be used as a copter base, engine staging area, a shelter for the evacuated. Normal living stopped. The city was in a state of siege. Thru the several days of intense smoke I never breathed any of it due to the steady push of southwest winds.

    I’ve been up here on lookout. since May 21. Even before that date we were averaging a fire, if  not two, per day. It is so terribly dry that fire officials say the conditions are akin to those of early August.

    Bushes off my staircase that normally bloom second week in June are calling that old newsy  the blooms come & gone days ago. I’ve had a 78 temp with many days topping out at 70-72,

unheard of this early in May. Only this week has it acted more like June should, then with absurdly cold mornings at 300 and never above 58. The really bad thing is the daily blast of winds. I feared what would happen if I got a fire close by, say within a few miles max. I soon found out. It broke around 3:30 on May 30. At exactly 4 mile distance. Panic hit me instantly. The flag was pointing southwest! Good grief! The smoke is coming right at me! But, look, the wind is only a few miles an hour, if that. Is this a blessing or what? ‘Just keep it ‘ I prayed. And, it did just that. A couple of times it surged to, maybe ten mph. My heart thumped even harder.          

   They pulled all the levers on my “Mosquito Fire”. Airtankers & helicopters, four each, plus a dozen times four, many engines and some half-dozen hand crews. The fire is remotely located to my northeast & NW of Eagle Lake which had its own fire several days previous to mine. Mine, so close, made spectacular viewing and I captured it on video as well. Tell ya, we’re in for a very long, adventurous fire season. Feels like I’ve been here for months already. Reality says I’ve been working for pay for only five days.

    My little 2-acre fire paled before the gargantuan Devil Fire. It had all the potential to become California’s second largest blaze & effectively put me out of a lookout job. Thank God it didn’t!

    If you folks do come this way, there are several options-to a place to stay. Certainly, you can stay at my place. If you prefer your RV, I believe you could hook-up in the RV section. I’ll have to get permission for this, but don’t foresee any problem, though I could be wrong. We have plenty of empty spaces. Also, I know of a few places you could camp “free”, but would need to be self- contained, those spots close to Bogard. If you really want a quiet spot, nothing beats the old Harvey Valley Fire Station across from me 7 mi. It still has the concrete slabs of the various bldgs. that occupied them years ago. The road in is easy access. If that interests you, I’d be glad to drive out there & check it over.

    At nearly 9:00 P.M. I can still type, but not for long.

   As per, my days off are Wed. & Thurs. It’s goin’ to be an upbeat summer. Stay tuned & I’ll keep you updated.

          Take care & Lord bless

Gary

“Hello!”

          Later, as we were finishing dinner, Van said, “Gary’s here.”

          I couldn’t believe it, because once he’s on the lookout, he’s on duty and with this heavy fire season, he wouldn’t dare leave. Yet, here he was. And before he came inside, or we’d said,

“Hello,” he started talking, something about having received a message and the radio not having clear reception, so he thought he’d better drive down and see what was happening.

          Apparently he could understand the ranger enough to know that we were here, but he hadn’t made arrangements for us to park in the sites, as he wasn’t sure when we would arrive.

          “How did you do this?” he asked, still standing outside, and before I could reply,surveying our RV comfortably in place, he went on, “It’s a miracle.”

          He explained that he had gotten my letter on Thursday, which in itself was a miracle, because, as he said, “It takes nine-days for a letter to get here from San Diego.”

         He added that, as I know, he usually saves his letters, savoring them awhile, before reading them, but this time he had a feeling that he should read it, so he did. But he wasn’t sure what I’d meant by  “being here in a few days,” so he asked the secretary for a woman’s input, and they concluded it could mean anything from the next few days to several weeks. Since he didn’t have time to make arrangements for us, he asked her to talk to their boss, Tom, about using the RV facilities. Apparently she did, because it was all handled, and as far as we couldtell, there would be no charge. At least Speedy had said, “It’s taken care of,” after earlier explaining that the paperwork alone would be complicated.

          Don’t forget, we’re talking about the government here. The same one that put up these eight RV sites, as accommodations for the firefighters. But, as Gary explained, “One of the gals decided the RV’s weren’t good enough for them, and they requested better quarters, and got them.” As I’d said to Randy, “A good illustration of our tax dollars at work.”

          I’d managed to get my shoes on, and Van and I stepped outside, as Gary continued talking about one thing and another, mostly relating to here or the lookout; all extremely interesting.          

          And he finally offered to show us his house, which he’d spent the winter remodeling. Walking across the compound to Gary’s house, he pointed to the snowplow, which he’d used to keep the driveways cleared, and talked about the difficulties working in the cold, with the snowpacked to his knees. “One day,” he said, “I got part way to the snowplow, and my legs couldhardly move from trudging through the snow. I hardly had enough energy to keep going.”

          At the house, he pointed to the windows, and said that the snow would cover them,because of the drifts. “Sometimes I would have to shovel my way out of the house,” he said. And, when he opened the blinds, he pointed to the birdfeeder, where he fed his only companions, birds and squirrels, and he said, “The snow was piled up 2 ft. on top of the feeder, at times.”

          Obviously, between the inside projects and his outside jobs, Gary had been extremely busy and didn’t have time to be lonely, although, as a natural loner, he’s seldom lonely, whether in the Outback or on the lookout.

          I couldn’t believe how much work he’d done: the house was filled with cupboards and drawers, with an extra-long counter; all of which Gary had removed the paint, sanded, and refinished; a painstaking and thorough effort. Not only that, but he’d also redone the wood floors. And he was still working on projects, on his days off, so the furniture was upended, and the place was definitely a “work in progress.” But it was a comfortable, homey place, and we were delighted that Gary had such a home, after years of wandering about in his RV, or going to the Outback in Australia, to hunt for gold.

          Interestingly, when Gary turned on the TV to show us the good reception from his satellite dish, a documentary on Australia appeared. Needless to say, he could hardly tear himself away, but he needed to be back at the lookout before dark. Yet, he continued talking, and we finally got back to his car, as the last vestiges of light were visible.

          But, fortunately, there was no lightning, and he explained that it’s usually in the afternoon, and not at night here. And he also said that he had reported a number of fires the day before, and hadn’t slept in 17-hours, because of the fires. Furthermore, he informed us, there was more lightning expected the next day, so he needed to get a good night’s sleep.

          Once Gary left, the place was quiet, because the day staff had gone home and the Hotshot Firefighters, who stay at the station, had gone to bed in the barracks. Although it was quiet, the lights in the main compound were like daylight, so I closed the curtains on that side to give a more peaceful view into the darkened woods, illumined by moonlight. Our first night ended, while we watched our one snowy TV channel and then went to bed for a quiet deep night’s sleep.

          I thanked God for our safe, quiet, comfortable place to stay, and we looked forward to another week in these woods, especially since I had no head or body pressures, even though we were at 5500 ft., about the same altitude as Denver.

The Golden Mantle and Other Critters

          Gary returned to his lookout, and we settled into our safe, quiet place, accompanied by  skittering chipmunks, squirrels and golden mantles, along with the scolding bluejays and crows; all of whom seemed to own the forest.

          The Dictionary didn’t define golden mantle, but it’s Gary’s name for them, so I’ll go his name for a golden, larger than chipmunk squirrel-like critter, which darts across the floor of the forest, or jumps onto a stump or table. Gary said that one, at the lookout, gnawed away on his screen, sounding like a chain saw, until Gary removed the door. What a world he lives in! His only complaint, “When I tenderly talk to the critter in the morning, it never changes its chisel-like expression; no emotions whatsoever.

          The Lassen Hotshots and other firefighters and rangers are a sidelight to main attractions at the Ranger Station. Every day I put out a peanut, and watched the critters sit on a stump and  nibble away, leaving only the shell. It was fight between whether the four-legged or feathered critters got there first, and I tried to place the peanut for the non-feathered ones, after I saw a bluejay swoop down and grab the morsel.

          Life is sweet when the only confrontations are between the critters, and not the battles being waged amongst the two-legged variety.  For instance, the mystery of the missing intern, Chandral, and her affair with the senator seemed to be the latest consuming news; along with more wars in the Middle East, and of course California’s ongoing Energy Crisis. I was glad that we only had one station, Fox, and only one late news broadcast, which we watched for the Weather Report. Of course, it doesn’t take much to figure out that it’s comfortable, during theday, and very cold at night; like 30’s, much to our surprise. Further confirmation of the changing weather patterns, but okay with us, in our pursuit of relief from the heat. In fact, Gary said it is often as high as 96-degrees here.

          One balmy day we enjoyed a BBQ outside, and the critters watched from a distance, and  then examined our portable electric grill, once we’d gone inside. I feared we’d have crispy critters, but fortunately the grill had cooled, allowing them to crawl under and over the new intrusion on their territory.

We Were Not Idle

          Of course, we did not remain idle, during our forest sojourn. In fact, I’d looked forward to the time, with electrical hookup, to update my website and writing, and for Van to scan pictures, which we did every day. And then, in the late afternoon, we took a walk, along the abandoned dirt road, through the woods.

          There was always lots to explore, such as a picnic table and garbage container (filled with beer cans), in the middle of nowhere, and tons of empty bullet cartridges; target practise, no doubt. And their were lots of abandoned projects and stored items, such as rotting wooden fence railings, replaced by steel fence posts and barbed wire, and several vehicles, such as tractors and truck boxes, which are used for storage. In fact, Gary said that someone had stolen his compressor from its locked storage container. A reminder that all is not totally safe, even here.

          One day I asked a ranger if we could check our e-mail, but he said it’s on a microwave dish, and very slow. Since it was almost closing, I chose to wait and use Gary’s phone hookup, which was the same, only we would have more time. Little did I know that Gary would be working at the Fair, on his first day off, so we had all day. We needed it, because something had caused most of my files to indicate  “has changes not yet published,” and Van needed to figure it out.

More Gary Stories

          Gary came home, while we were on a walk, across the highway, by the Rest Area, so we  spotted him unloading his classic VW van, which was loaded with short logs that he had cut down and chunked for firewood. Of course, none of them fit into his wood stove, so he tried to get the forestry department to do it, but they hadn’t, as yet. Nevertheless, he needed the wood, and added it to his stack, in hopes someone else would cut it, but knowing that it might be him.

          Again, he talked about the long, cold winter, with the snow beside his house covering thewindows. And he shivered, as he talked about the intense cold, when he was out shoveling snow with the antiquated snowplow, because they wouldn’t let him use the Bobcat. What a drudgery.  But, he finally got saw warm insulated boots and his feet were no longer cold; and the insulated bodysuit kept him warm, until he could get the plowing done. Then, toward the end of the winter season, they told him he didn’t need to do it; in fact, he was taking away work from the Cal-Trans crew. Oh Well!

          While we stood outside, in the cooling night air, Gary told one story after another, highlighted by forest fires: the most recent in progress, now, in Southern Oregon. In fact, the Hot Shots had departed, in the early morning, several days earlier, and we hadn’t even heard them; nor did we know they had gone. It’s that quiet and we had slept that sound, as we do every night, while in this peaceful setting.

          Gary happily said that Randy, the ranger who had showed us our RV site, had visited him one day, and of all things, his lady barber and her boyfriend, from thirty-miles away, had driven up for a Sunday drive. Of course, these visits make his day, while perched on his isolated lookout. It’s not an easy access, nor on the way to anyplace, along the dirt road that becomes nearly a trail, at the last mile, which we actually drove in our prized Volvo. I worried, because Van is a city boy, and these roads were not his idea of fun. But, we survived, and so did our car, which is now the family vehicle for Dottie and Steve.

          Midst his stories, we were surprised when Gary told us that he got word that he would beworking at the Fair, representing the Forestry Department, on Wednesday, but I managed to make arrangements for him to leave us his key, before he left, so Van could shower and we could check the email, and see what’s going on with the website.

          Our days at this mountain respite were coming to a close and I looked forward to a day with my brother, which finally came on Thursday.

Woody’s at Westwood

          Gary was to pick us up at 9:00 a.m. for the 23-mile drive to Westwood for breakfast. But it was a sunny, warm morning, so we walked to his house. He was watering his lawn, andotherwise catching up on his day-off activities, and he’d also cleaned out the VW for us.

          Eventually, we got under way for our morning drive. I sat in the front seat, and listened to his stories, while Van silently sat in the back. Mostly, Gary was pointing out local sights of interests and telling stories that went with them, such as where accidents had occurred: his or others. Or explaining that the convicts who were doing work along the way, also fight fires, and enjoy the opportunity to get out, and also earn time for early release. And we both lamented the ugly brown pine trees that had been intentionally burned as a preventative measure.

          Finally, we arrived in Westwood, which had once been a major lumber town. Now, Gary said that investors were considering the possibility of building a nearby ski resort, which would bring life to this quiet mountain town.

          Gary pulled up in front of Woody’s Restaurant, which he liked because of local color, such as faded front doors that didn’t match: a faded blue and faded pinkish. The large inside seemed like a former market, but we enjoyed the spacious, relaxed atmosphere and spent several hours eating and chatting, as Gary answered Van’s question: “How did you get started as a Forest lookout?”

          To my surprise, it was Dad Freeland, our paternal grandfather, who was also my adopted father, who had instigated the job. I vaguely remembered something about it, but I still wondered how Dad Freeland knew about this job, or even how the communication was made; he was not much involved in his son, or his grandsons. But, Gary said that’s the story that his dad told him.

          Gary, only 17, had just graduated from high school, and drove up the Columbia River tothe Forestry Station, where he was told that the lookout was across the river, in Washington, and suggested that Gary drive down the road and look across the river, where he could see it. Of course, most young boys would run away, but Gary has always been a loner, and he took the job. 

We laughed, as he described his first trek into the mountain lookout, hauling his weights and kit for his model airplane, among other things, such as food, on his back. Of course, coming out was the real challenge, carrying his delicate model airplane down the slopes to his car.

          The stories went on, long after we had finished eating, as he recalled various lookouts and told us stories about them, all of which are recorded in a 300+ page book he once wrote,
that’s never been published. And that’s only his early years in Oregon and Washington, not
California, and not when he was married and took his family.

          Gary generously paid for our breakfast, which we appreciated, as he doesn’t earn all that much, as a lookout, and he must conserve to survive, so this was a welcome offer, which we accepted.

Paul Bunyan and His Blue Ox

          Gary drove us by the old lumber mill, once the center of industry in these mountains, and also the company homes, all built in a row and in various stages of disrepair, though still inhabited.

          Westwood is really a pleasant town settled in the valley between mountains, and I wondered what the proposed ski resort would do to the town. But, one thing remained stalwart, and that’s the enormous hand-carved statues of Paul Bunyan, both carved out of one giant tree. It just proves that lives come and go, but the trees can live on forever, unless someone saws them down, such as this wonderful old tree.

          For instance, while we were taking pictures and enjoying the sunshine, Gary was telling a story, which turned out to relate to the large house on the corner. Seems his dentist had lived and had his offices there. Gary emphasized that the man, in his thirties, had been a fitness nut and very conscious about his health. But, one day Gary went for his appointment and there was a sign on the door indicating that the office was closed.

          Gary, being a writer, can’t resist the human interest, so he asked at the post office what happened to the dentist. The clerk didn’t know, but she asked someone else. Turns out the man had a heart attack and died. Gary’s point being that you never know what’s going to happen, even when you think you’re taking good care of yourself. And, he was also concerned because no one seemed very interested in what had happened to the young man, a resident and neighbor in this small town.

The General Store

The General Store is just that, including a butcher shop where you can order your meat cut however you want, and he raved about the delicious bacon cut thick from a slab. And they had fresh fruit and vegetables too, including a special on corn-on-the-cob. Gary wanted some grapes and corn, so he bought some and divided with us. Again, I was touched by his generosity, which added to our healing and bonding.

          I noticed that the store was a member of Western Family, which allowed them to keep their stock supplied and their prices down, which is an advantage they didn’t have in the old days, when Mr. Young started the store. So, as usual, despite the objections to progress, there are many features to be appreciated.

Get the Ice Cream in the Freezer!

          For the return trip, I suggested that Van ride up front with Gary, so he listened to Gary’s stories, while I enjoyed the scenery. And, Gary even took us on a bumpy side trip toward Silver urned to the highway and his home, where I made sure he got the ice cream in the freezer, before he got side-tracked; a holdover from my early childhood and his infancy when I was told, “Take care of your brother, Joanie.”

A Lightning Strike!

          Gary had been eyeing the darkening skies, and as a lookout, he always keeps his two-way radio speaker on, and when he heard a whistle, he knew an alert was about to be broadcast. Sure enough, it was Frank, his substitute, reporting a lightning strike, much to Gary’s excitement. How he loves being part of the excitement of the storm, but he still had a few hours till he returned, so he listened to the reports and enjoyed the storm vicariously, while we stood outside and chatted. I was happy that the storm had not settled in this area.

          Soon the afternoon was ending and I knew he had things to do, so we returned home. Later we said “Goodbye” when he stopped by on his way to the lookout, filled with excited anticipation for the storm.

More of Gary’s World

          And that is my brother Gary’s world; at least this part. But he has another world; one thattakes him around the world, to Australia, and I’m trying to get him to prepare copies of some of his stories about gold-mining in the Outback, and then I’ll create a webpage for him, so stay tuned. In fact, I have one story that he wrote for my “Rainbow Connection” publication, so I’ll soon unearth it and begin his webpage, but the real thrill will come when he publishes his books.

For instance, “Call me Robert” is about the father-son relationship with his son who died of a form of cancer at the age of 19, a tragedy for Gary. But, they had some great bonding, during their time together on the lookouts, and on a trip to Australia. It’s a book that needs to be published, as it’s too long for a webpage.

          In fact, during our visit, Gary had recalled some of the trauma and sadness of losing his only son, at such a young age. But, I was happy to see that Gary had healed many of those painful wounds, and his life was moving on.

Chapter 7

A TIME OUT

“For General Information”

          While at Gary’s, Van had dropped on me “For General Information our Amex card is full and we are out of money.” He’d known for over a week. Thanks a lot! Guess he figures there’s never a good time to tell me such information. He’s right! Why are we still in this kind of situation?

          He says he has some reserve money, which we can use. But my first reaction was to scrap all plans for Oregon and Washington and go to his mom’s in northern California. To me, that’s the logical, sensible thing to do. It’s closer, so we’ll use less gas, and she’ll pay our parking fee for the month. But, obviously, there’s more involved it seems like our Money Issues are up again. Why?

          Of course, that didn’t take much to figure out: this pattern evolves around Gary’s birth, no money, Mom going crazy, and that entire scenario that still seems to haunt me, despite the years of therapy and recovery. Nevertheless, it wiped me out.

Why Did What Happened Happen?

Fortunately, just before he’d dropped that bomb, we’d gotten the email and Van was re-publishing the on-line stuff that he had already done. I don’t understand what had happened to cause the published material to have to be done again, nor did Van. And I’m not sure whether Van is in another Obsessive-Compulsive Money Disorder syndrome.

 I know that I am. And I was so upset that I went home, looked over our Spending Plan, >which we’d put off for several weeks, ate lunch and read Marcus Bach’s, “The World of Serendipity.” Wouldn’t you know, the chapter I’m reading is titled, “Why did What Happened Happen?”

Marcus, quoting the Princes of Serendip, gives three answers: 1. It happened either for your growth or for your guidance. 2. It happened because you drew what happened to yourself by conscious or unconscious forces. 3. It happened not for your benefit, but for the benefit of someone else– and that someone else, of course, may have been you. Despite an entire chapter on the subject, I didn’t feel any better, other than knowing that it must be a God-thing that’s going on.

An Unsettling Condition

I wasn’t in a good mood when Van finally returned home, after doing more computer on-line stuff, including updating his bank records, which are now on-line.

I’d tried to call Dottie, but no one answered, and I had a feeling they were moving, and this added to my feeling of flux, an uncomfortable and unsettling condition, and definitely an abrupt end to my peaceful enjoyment of our “Safe, Quiet Place.” After all, the Abandonment Syndrome is a major part of my recurring childhood pattern, and their moving only added fuel to <>my already burning fire.

And when Gary arrived from working at the Susanville Fair, for his key, he announced that a weather condition, known as a trough, was coming through and there would be lightning the next afternoon, and also on Saturday; and not only in this area, but further north, in Oregon, where we would be traveling. So, perhaps, God was telling us not to go north, but rather to head to Van’s mother’s in Northern California.

.All this caused me to reflect on whether or not I really wanted to go to Oregon and Washington. Visits there, with my family, were not always satisfying; in fact they were often painful, as they are all into their own things. Like everyone else, wherever we go, and they really don’t seem to have much time to spend with us, so why go? Would it not be better to simplyfollow the ABC’s:  (A)Avoid it, rather than (B) Block it out or put myself in a position of havingto be (C) Charitable?

I don’t know, the thing is, the visit includes seeing my son, and delivering my old computer to him, and also seeing my daughter and granddaughter, who don’t want to be mentioned in my writings, so that’s all I can say about that. But, there are some relationship problems involved.

In any event, we were still facing the Money Issues, and I questioned whether I should step out on faith, knowing that God is the Source of our Supply, or just give up the northward trip.

The Spending Plan, once sorted out, reflected that indeed, only two weeks into the month, and we only had around $200.00 to last the rest of the month, about three weeks, until our Social Security check arrived.

On the surface, it made sense to go to Van’s mom’s, but it didn’t feel right, at this time. We’d planned to spend a month there in the fall, when it’s cooler, and I really wanted to see my
Then I thought about the possibility that it might be meaningful for my family members to see us, so maybe I should just push on through. It’s for sure that Marquam wanted my old computer that motivated this northward trip. But, it could be shipped much cheaper than paying the gas and other expenses of driving Freedom across two more states. The question is: is that the point?

Considering the Situation

I studied the Road Atlas and discovered that the distance from here to Bend, Oregon, was the same as from here to Santa Clara, where Van’s mom lives, so that equals out to where either way would be acceptable. But, of course, from Bend to Portland, and on to Olympia, Wa. was a lot further, yet we would have family places to stay, so only the gas would be the biggest expense. Maybe we could make it, after all, especially knowing that God is the Source of our Supply, and He provides for our every need. My main concern was to follow God’s guidance, otherwise, it wouldn’t work out, no matter what we did. Obviously working through this Money Issue was the first priority, and then it probably wouldn’t matter which way we went, God would provide.

          I didn’t discuss the subject with Van that night, nor the next day, because I was still upset and trying to sort things out, but mostly listening for God’s guidance, which I hadn’t been getting; and that’s the hardest part for me. Obviously, this meant there were issues that I needed to push through.

          Part of my anger and upset, with Van, evolves from his unwillingness (or inability) to properly support us in the last ten-years. I’d certainly never expected to be in such a desperate financial situation, and I resented his obsessive-compulsive Money Disorder, and the embarrassing and upsetting position that I now found myself.

Fight or Flight

This situation always throws me into my usual reaction of fight or flight; or both. And

again, I had been planning my departure. In truth, Cousin John’s manor in Laguna Hills was my

escape, but, added to everything else that had been happening the past several days, an e-mail

message from John announced that he had lost his lawsuit on all counts, so the possibility of

staying there was gone. He did say that he was going to appeal, but I didn’t hold out much hope

for that happening in the immediate future; if ever. So, I felt trapped. Even if I didn’t retreat to

the manor by myself, it had been an alternative plan for Van and I to settle down and take care of my website.

In a Void

But, another e-mail message, from Snow, who was going to set up my search-engine

connection, said that she had not received the information from me which she needed to move

forward with the project. Van reminded me that I had sent her that information a long time ago,

so here was another thing that I thought was handled, that wasn’t.

The most upsetting part of the sudden turn of events was the not knowing. So, I found

myself in a void.

Matters Got Worse

After we returned to Gary’s house that evening, matters only got worse. First, I talked

with Dottie and learned that, indeed, they were moving. In fact, the last load (my storage stuff),

was being loaded. She explained that there was a garage where my stuff would be stored, and I

dreaded the thought of my possessions being outdoors, although she didn’t say they were

outdoors. As usual, she was in a hurry, and the only other information she mentioned came from

her answer to my question: there is a yard for Rascal, the family dog. The phone kept cutting off,so, I gave up on that conversation, and waited to read the message, which she let me know shehad taken time from her busyness to write.

But, I did learn that they had rented a Blazer and would be leaving on Saturday for their

business convention in Greensboro, North Carolina, taking along Airica, Josh. Arianna and Jason would stay at their house with Micayla and the animals, which works fine, since he doesn’t have a  job. Also, Airica had sent an email that Josh had quit his job, and they would both begin new ones when they returned. In fact, she would be working as a receptionist for Metro College, where she would begin attending in August.

The Pattern is in Place

As I’m writing, I can see that the factors (from childhood) are in place for my inner child

to be triggered: moving (doesn’t matter who; it’s uprooting), no money (memories of my parents

being broke, during the Depression) and Gary (his birth caused mom’s breakdown and their

marriage to dissolve our family). It doesn’t matter to the subconscious (including the inner

child), if these things make sense or not, because they all fit into the pattern; then becomes now. So, no wonder I was feeling so angry and upset.

Again, I must write out another pattern that seems to remain intact, despite years of

therapy and recovery. It’s the feeling that I am not wanted and don’t belong. In fact, in recent

years the feelings are even more intense, especially since Dottie is so busy with their business

and makes it evident that she really doesn’t have time for us in her life. Or, at least that’s how I

feel, although she makes sure I get it that she has gone out of her way to take time for me, or

include me. It just seems that, on my part, the projection goes before me and sets up the

outcome. So, it’s up to me to make the inner changes, if I want outer results, such as acceptance.

And, although I think I’ve dealt with these issues, it’s a fact that the recovery process is cyclic

and spherical, so we will meet up with the issues again, on deeper levels, until we make the final breakthrough. Obviously, I am pushing through, again, and I must trust that God is guiding me through the recovery process.

Of course, understanding all this didn’t change the fact that we were in our financial lack

situation, and I didn’t feel any better, after writing this and realizing that everything had piled up,

causing my subconscious reaction.

 

In fact, the childhood scene had even flashed before my eyes: Mom crying into the dishtowel in the kitchen; the baby, Gary, crying in his basket by the window; and Little Joanie  crying in her highchair, desperately wanting reassurance that everything was okay. But, it wasn’t

then, and as far as she’s concerned, it isn’t now, either.

Now, because of the weather pattern, Gary had strongly suggested that we wait until

Sunday, before leaving, as we would otherwise be going right into the storm, including thunder,

lightning and rain.

Okay, God, what is going on here? Please give me some input and guidance. Walking

back from Gary’s, we stopped by the Ranger’s Office and told them that we would be staying

until Sunday, adding that the decision was based upon Gary’s suggestion, so they wouldn’t think

we were indefinitely freeloading.

Options

I awoke going over the various options: Van’s mom’s, or push on through to Oregon and

Washington. Also, perhaps it would be a wise option to stop at our friend, Kathy’s, in Red Bluff,

for a few days, before deciding what to do; this could be a fork-in-the-road to head in either

direction. I’d e-mailed her that we were nearby, and she’d said that she would be working, but

we were welcome. We had originally decided to by-pass Kathy, until our return trip, and drive

through the mountains all the way to Mount Shasta. But, with the bad weather conditions, it

seemed wise to go to Kathy’s for a few days. Besides, I always enjoy visiting her, and had felt

bad about missing her this trip. Now, maybe God is telling us something, after all.

Van had insisted that we wait out the thunder and lightning storm, even though we had

nice weather here, but Gary had said that the trough extended north into Oregon, which was

confirmed by a TV weather report, so we stayed put.

What Does That Tell Me?

I used the time to write an e-mail to Snow with the blurb and words for the Search

Engine connection that she was going to handle. Apparently I had forgotten to include it in my

June 23rd e-mail to her. What does that tell me? Also I wrote an e-mail response to my

granddaughter’s e-mail of two years ago that caused me such hurt and pain. Now, I got migraine

and eye problems from dealing with these issues. What does that tell me? Furthermore, Gary had left and I couldn’t send e-mail from the Ranger’s Office. Again: What does that tell me?

Some kind of message here, someplace.

Surrounded by Beauty

Sunday morning we got up early and got ready to leave our mountain Paradise. Van filled

the water and I took pictures. The weather was clear and we began a beautiful and pleasant drive to McCloud, near Mt. Shasta. We stopped to look at the Dinner Train that Gary had mentioned, and walk up the street of this quiet, pretty town, with Mt. Shasta towering in the background.

As we reached the town of Mount Shasta, my phone signal returned and I noticed that I

had Voice Messages. One from my Cousin Marilyn telling me that our Aunt Betty, the youngest

member of our parent’s generation, had died on Friday, July 13th, and they’d already had the

Memorial Service the following Friday. Several messages from my son announced that he had

attended the Memorial Service, and he wondered why I wasn’t there. Of course, since he has no

phone, and mine had no service, it was difficult to communicate.

Since I am sensitive to energies of those near to me, I began to suspect all this turn of

events had something to do with my unsettled condition during the past week. It’s for sure that I

was going into overload from too much of too much. One thing for sure, there was nothing I

could do about Aunt Betty now, so I allowed the surrounding beauty to be my personal Memorial

Service, and we drove on through more trees and mountain beauty into Oregon.

An Explanation

The title of this chapter is based on several matters that have been going on. Of course,

the preceding information is simply a build-up to the reason I found myself in a Time-out from

my writing and website projects. It had all begun when I’d become short-circuited by the

announcement from Homestead, our sitebuilder, that they would be charging for the website,

after July 31st, and we must decide whether to sign up for Homestead Personal or Homestead

Professional. Although I’d set aside money from my legacy for website expenses, I’d gone into

confusion and overload. I wasn’t ready to take this next step. So, my only writing had been

keeping my Travel Journal, where I could express my experiences and feelings, without having

to worry if I was doing it right for public viewing.

The second Time-out had been imposed by my daughter; the one who doesn’t want me to

write about her, so the part of our time in Oregon with her is eliminated from this story, although

it was a pleasant time. And the time with my granddaughter didn’t happen, so I don’t need to

mention that.

The third motivation for the title came from my Daily Reading. For some reason my July

booklet never appeared, and I missed its daily encouragement and inspiration, which offers a

Time-out in my daily living. But, when our mail finally caught up with us, I hungrily read the

inspiring messages, beginning with one about harmonious relationships, which suggests a

Time-out as one solution, in which we pray and ask God, “What should I say? How should I

Respond?”

It’s for sure I’d been asking these questions, as we approached my daughter’s town, and

I’d been trying to call her all day to see if she wanted to see us, or if we were still in the two-year

Time-out. I finally reached her the next day and we spent several days together. Enough said

about that.

Ask Someone Who Knows

In the meantime, when at Awl-Mart I decided to ask the Customer Service Manager

about the story I’d been told by the salesman at Blue Mesa Ranch RV Park, that Awl-Mart plans

to charge $900.00 a year for RV’s to park. The Customer Service Manager said he didn’t know

anything about it and he doubts that it’s true. Although he may not have the best information, I

suspected that a rumor was being circulated, based on a lie for the benefit of those who started it.

Anyway, that was one problem removed from the heap that had piled on me. I did make a mentalnote to e-mail the CEO of Awl-mart, once we got our phone hook-up and time to make the communication.

Being in The Present Moment