I spent months getting ready for this trip by gathering information about where I was going and learning everything I could about the RV; even writing a “RV for Dummies Manual” (RDM). The day we left we had 7 “problems” with the RV that required my RDM, some troubleshooting, and spending the night parked in front of the Dawson, ND City Hall waiting for the gas station to open in the morning. Lesson – Don’t get too comfortable, the “check engine” light just came on.
As the old saying goes “we are all alone in this together”. Yet I met the following 26 wonderful people who made my odyssey immensely better: Marty, Larry, Stacey, Keith & Trina, Dan & Laurie, Wayne & Nina; Marvin, Mur & Pat; Craig, Mike, Joe, Tom, Bert, Jeff, Mark & Lana, James, Ken, Tom & Jean, Shari, and Julia. I hope I was as generous to them as they were to me. Lesson – Do your best, be nice to those you meet, and enjoy the trip.
I bought the XM radio package figuring it would be better than regular radio and bringing along many CDs for the long drives. Plus I would be able to pick-up the MN Twins games. With all the channels, and thousands of songs across many genres, I didn’t expect to hear the same song twice. Yet, on day 1 I heard “Back In the Black” by AC/DC on 2 different stations. Lesson – You would be surprised at how many firsts are really just repeats.
Ross and I drove 8 hours in one day to make Bozeman and one day we fished for 8 hours to try and catch dinner. Whether it is important (driving) or fun (fishing), don’t get too excited with the possibilities. Lesson – Everything can only go so far.
One day it was really hot so we had the AC units on to cool down the RV. Two hours later we needed the RV furnace to stay warm. Lesson – Hot and cold are an example of how our experiences are just a change in the status quo.
The more stuff I’ve acquired over the years the less I’ve wanted to use things because of the effort and cost to clean, repair, or replace them. Whereas Ross had no hesitation to use every function available in the RV. This helped me to see that the RV worked and was easy to maintain. Lesson – It is better to use your stuff and break it than to keep it ready for another day.
I had never parked an RV in a campground or hooked-up to the utilities (electric, water, and sewer). So, when I pulled into my first campground I explained to the host that I was a rookie that might need some help. He was only too happy to help and followed me to the parking stall to walk me through the steps. He also provided some great local information on where to golf, directions to the local Ford RV Dealer, and where to go for fly fishing information. Lesson – Stop, look, listen, and ask.
A mantra most of us have heard all our lives is to “stick with the plan”. As a result, it seems we approach most situations in a defensive posture to minimize surprises instead of an inquisitive approach looking for and embracing change. Today’s dynamic world is a lot like a long RV trip in that you have to adjust quickly. Lesson – The best plans change.
I was fishing for a couple of hours on my own and caught a nice 2-3lb brown trout that I quickly named dinner. I kept it in my net held at the bottom of the river bank until Ross joined me so that he could take a posed picture of me and the fish. When he got there we did a high five and I knelt in the water with the fish in front of me for the picture. The fish slipped out of my grasp into the river and was gone. No picture, and worse yet, no dinner as we did not catch another fish that day. Lesson – Posing can cost you the prize.
Daily activities are at best a distraction, and more likely avoidance, from the reality that few of us are really prepared to survive. When you cut through the distractions we allow to clutter our days, the choices become clear: faith in a god, an ideal, or a purpose larger than yourself; devotion to family and traditions; integrity and loyalty; having fun and keeping things simple.
Along the way I saw 43 notable animals including: 1 elk; 6 moose; 12 black bears; 7 grizzlies; 3 eagles, 6 loons, 1 osprey; 2 humpback whales; 2 wood bison; 1 stone mountain goat; and 2 stone mountain sheep. I learned the following 9 Canadian sayings: Eh; Right; Mydear; Tied-Up; Beauty; Blubbering A Bib Full; Chewing the Rag; Its all good; and Slippy. Don’t be surprised if you hear me use them in a conversation.
The 49-day trip also helped me realize that I don’t feel as old as I look, happiness is real only when shared, and we are all traveling in a circle. For some it is like a merry-go-round in that every day they travel in a very small circle. For others it is more like a rollercoaster with a large loop, ups and downs, and twists and turns that seem new each ride. Regardless we are all born, we live, and then we die. Since that cannot be escaped, we need to break out of our circles and take time for those side trips, eat at different restaurants, try new activities, and talk with strangers. You cannot imagine the adventures that await.