Our Westward Journey
Recently I have found myself reading a great deal of Historical Fiction books; diaries of women pioneers, details of journeys into the wild west in Conestoga wagons pulled by oxen and tales of gold fever. They have inspired me to write the start of our story in a similar tone & tempo, glancing over details here or there, and instead focusing on the romantic notions of pioneering out west. Enjoy.
21st century pioneering! Gosh I love how that sounds and while I’m applying the label pioneer generously, it is in a very real way what we are doing. Like pioneers of the past departing from boom towns along the Missouri, JED and I began our journey farther east on the coast of Virginia. With one last goodbye to the Atlantic Ocean we set our sights toward the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, never knowing for sure what we would find to do once we got there, or if we could even make the journey without incident. We hoped for the best and held confidence in knowing that we are both experienced hard workers and little else is usually required of those heading West in search of a new life.
What little we owned was now crammed into our ‘new coach’. It was new to us anyway as we just recently acquired it in a good deal among neighbors. JED and I agreed that we could organize and sort our belongings as we went, selling and trading what was extra or unnecessary in order to get by. We began by following the setting sun until we hit the Blue Ridge Mountains and then turned south. It was a long stretch before we came into the foothills of Southern Appalachia, and they were alive with fall color!
JED delivered us safely into those glowing Smokies and I was happy to be there. This was one of a couple of planned stops along our journey to see the sights and family, and this stop was to see my daughter. She was living near the base of the highest peak in the Smoky Mountains, in an old rail-town east of Knoxville near where I raised her. Now a full fledged adult who had been living on her own for several years, with a mind toward enjoying her independence. She joined us at the Old Country Store where we visited and caught up on the ins and outs of each other’s lives. Meanwhile JED tended to the rig and any needed adjustments that may have arisen along the way. All too soon it was time to say goodbye, and I did so with tears in my eyes.
The trek out of the Appalachians and through the foothills to the mighty Mississippi was long and hot. Once we crossed over and finally leveled out in the great prairies things seem to be cooler and moving along more swiftly for us. Our days were long with miles journeyed and our nights spent sleeping wherever convenient and hopefully safe. We held some hope that our pet dog might at least warn us of approaching evil-doers or ill-intending wildlife but one cannot expect much from an old tired farm dog now displaced on the other side of the country in unfamiliar territory. Our meals along the way were brief and very basic. Most cooking was done in the evening hours after we pulled over and camped for the night. We enjoyed beans & rice, stews & soups mainly at night and daytime snacks consisted of sandwiches, dry cereals, and in-season fruits when we were lucky. The dry prairies make you awfully thirsty, more thirsty than I could ever imagine was possible and JED and I drank gallons of our precious water supply.
I was thrilled when we finally came into the Ozark Mountains, where we came upon our friends who owned a traveling Petting Zoo and Safari Show. We planned to stay with them and in exchange for letting us set up camp and recreate with their animals, we helped them with the show! They were performing at a County Fair and we earned our stay by helping with chores during the day and by night we became impromptu Safari Guides! We led the curious public through jungle themed Big Top Tents with cages of wild animals they had seldom, if ever, seen before in their lives. JED’s favorite was definitely the 600 pound rare Albino Bengal Tiger while mine may have been the Three Wise Camels, oh I liked so many of the animals so it’s hard to decide. It seemed though the general public and the kids loved those Ringtail Lemurs and that one famous Capuchin Monkey most . Once the fair ended after a week we said our goodbyes and headed North into the dusty plains of Kansas and then westbound with the sun one more time until we got to Colorado.
I can easily recall when we started getting close enough to the Rocky Mountains, because of the air. The air began to take on this crisp, clean, cold scent to it, and then the pine smell began to dominate my nose. We could see the outline of the Front Range with the setting sun behind, but the real reveal would be the next day. We awoke just after dawn and the now morning-sun covered Rockies were an incredible sight! I was taken aback by their beauty; snow capped, sharp jutting points, and so many ranges as far as the eyes could see! They were awesome in the true sense of the word. And while our journey was ending, the future was just beginning to unfold for us. Our destination was east of those Rockies in an old gold mining settlement area at the base of what the locals call The Flatirons. Once we got there we were treated to a stunning sunset and the relief that we came across country safely and have arrived at our destination. With a celebratory “clink” of our glasses to toast our arrival and accomplishments so far, JED and I watched the light give way to the starry night sky and put our weary selves to bed too.
The end is also a beginning, continue reading our adventures in our Blog.