THE ROAD

The About page of this blog explains how, with whom, why and where I have been living as a Rubber Hobo since the autumn of 2010. I hope you’ll turn to that section to get a sense of who you’re reading. I’m preparing a book about my adventures and misadventures. Here are a few stories from the road:

ANGELS REST

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Photo by Donna Hailson

Best Friends Animal Society was launched in the early 1980s with a sanctuary at Angel Canyon in Kanab, Utah. Today, that sanctuary encompasses 33,000 acres and, on any given day, nearly 2,000 companion animals call the place home. The great majority of these will eventually be placed with “forever families” after just a few weeks of loving care. A few, however, who are too old or too ill or who have suffered extra trauma, will find a home and haven at the sanctuary where they will receive attention for the remainder of their days. And when, as one of the folks from Best Friends might say, a pet passes over the “Rainbow Bridge,” the sanctuary will also offer a final place of interment in its Angels Rest cemetery.

Perhaps you might imagine yourself strolling the grounds of Angels Rest with me.

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Photo by Donna Hailson

As we alight from our vehicle, we spy a pair of metal gates adorned with the images of a yellow cat and a light brown dog. The duo’s expressions cause us to muse over what they might think of the mischievous rabbits perched upon both of their backs. We note that above their heads on the gates are, what look to be, turquoise trumpet vines.

We enter through the gates and Angels Rest immediately moves in upon all of our senses. In the air is a sweet baking cookies aroma emanating from the Ponderosa Pines that surround us. We can almost taste the vanilla. Above is a serene blue sky with only, here and there, mere wisps of white clouds. Under foot is a soft umber dusty ground and beside us now is one who will reappear every so often during our visit to serve as a guide: a brown, white and black striped sagebrush lizard.  All around us are towering, striated red, gold, and cream canyon walls, bright green junipers, prickly cacti and other succulents. The dry heat settles way down deep in our bones. Then moving in gently to call our attention is a surrounding symphony. The breeze has picked up and following upon it are the tinkling sopranos, mellow tenors, gentle baritones, and deep basses of hundreds and hundreds of wind chimes. A ministering calm overtakes our spirits. We slow our steps and begin to take note of what stretches out before us.

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Photo by Donna Hailson

Here are rows upon rows upon rows of granite markers. Many bear silver metal plates. Into these have been etched the photographs and names of and tributes to cherished companion animals. One, for Sadie Mae, catches our eye. Oh, and here’s one for Jessop and one for Olaf. Another of the markers is topped with a little stone and on the stone has been painted the charming face of a beloved dog named Tucker. Into an elegant black metal plate topped with Hebrew letters, we find etched “Tzipporah, Countess of Calico, May Her Memory Be Blessed Forever.”

The memorials are all about us. Under the statue of a pink pig with angel wings, we find the name B-R-I-T spelled out with individual round stones for each letter. Encircling a small figurine of a horse and a mosaic tile carrying the image of the equine Eclipse, are dozens of metal strips poking out of the ground. On these are engraved names like Rhumba, Beetlejuice, Mango, Baa Baa Ganoosh, Bobby Magee…

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Photo by Donna Hailson

In the niches of a series of deep orange brick walls, we see bronze and ceramic urns, memorial stones, plaques, handwritten notes, dog collars and name tags, feeding bowls, miniature paintings, pawprints etched into more stones…

At the near life-sized statue of an Old English Sheepdog, my tears finally break through as I think of our own dearly loved Mac and Molly and lament that, one day, the pair will no longer be with us; we too will have our “goodbyes.” And over there, do you see the statue of the doleful basset, and there…a napping cat, a wise owl, a Lab looking as though it’s ready to leap?

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Photo by Donna Hailson

We find places to sit and contemplate: a gazebo, benches, tree stumps. Another mosaic of two rabbits – one grey, one black – placed here in memory, we learn, of the Reno Rabbits “whose brave spirits inspired our actions and enriched our lives.”

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Photo by Donna Hailson

We learn from Best Friends that a brief memorial services is conducted at the time of each interment wherein caregivers may share memories of their pets and readings may be offered. These ceremonies often end with the leaving of a memory stone at the gravesite. Blessing ceremonies, to which all visitors are invited, are also held on the last Thursday of each month  to honor sanctuary animals that have died over the previous 30 days. These are special times for caregivers and staff, visitors and volunteers.

Those who wish to have their beloved companion animals interred at Angels Rest may arrange to bring their loved ones to the sanctuary or may send the cremains via UPS or Fed-Ex. Instructions are found on the Best Friends website. For further information, you can contact the Angels Rest coordinator at (435) 644-2001, ext. 4867, or angelsrest@bestfriends.org.

 *****

A SENSE OF HUMOR, EXCELLENT INSURANCE AND CONFIDENCE IN THE LORD WHO LOVES YOU

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Photo by Donna Hailson

For nearly two years, my husband Gene and I have been on the road with our two Old English Sheepdogs, Mac and Molly. On April 9, we left Gold Beach, Oregon and traveled 6,242 miles over 29 days to reach the southern coast of North Carolina. We’ll be spending the summer here as we seek the Lord’s will for the next steps in our lives. We’ve had quite the series of adventures and misadventures over these days of wild wayfaring and I’ll be sharing the details and lessons from this time in a forthcoming book. We saw the first of our misadventures on the most recent leg of the trip when we were just two hours out of Gold Beach. As we were traveling on the Redwood Highway in Klamath, California, we came upon a “Class C” RV fully-engulfed in flames. The occupants had escaped to safety but the blaze was underway a good twenty minutes before the fire crew arrived. As we waited – with dozens of others from vehicles backed up in both directions on the two-lane road – we watched as each tire exploded and as the vehicle’s propane tank went up as well. The seriousness of the situation was particularly impressed upon me as I noticed the flames begin to snake up the hillside in streams of red and gold – heading for the dense stand of Redwoods. The firefighters arrived in time to contain the blaze and we continued on our way.

In the days ahead, there would be more misadventures. We’d be prevented from entering Yosemite because of heavy snow. We’d dent our fifth-wheel trailer and truck in a too-tight turn. I would be diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy after over-stressing my body with too much sun and wind while hiking and dry camping in Death Valley. Our brake lines would be severed while going over a bump in Death Valley and our water pump, a fuse and two batteries would also fail us in the same place. With no power, we’d be unable to raise the leveling feet on our trailer. Gene would make short work of splicing the trailer wires back together but the latter problems would have us traveling miles and miles in search of a replacement fuse and replacement battery. We’d finally locate what was needed but the “new” battery was dead on arrival and had to be charged along with our old battery (which necessitated another 70 mile round-trip). There was great jubilation when all power was restored and we were able to raise the levelers and get back on the road.

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Photo by Donna Hailson

The ensuing days were filled with excitement and joy as we visited friends in southern California and marveled at the glories of the national parks – Zion, Bryce, and Grand Canyon – and as we savored the pleasures offered by various cities along the way. Ah, but then, as we were zooming along through New Mexico just past Albuquerque, we heard a “pop, pop” that signaled a double tire blow out on the right side of the trailer. We could have rolled over but – thank God – we were able to maneuver safely to the side of the road. A New Mexico policewoman was with us immediately. I called our insurance company and requested roadside assistance. Two tire repairmen were on the scene within an hour. They discovered that we did wreck one wheel and suffered some minor damage to the undercarriage of the RV but, within minutes of our rescuers’ arrival, we were back on the road again. We made our way through several more states without incident (save for my having left a set of keys in a gas station rest room) and finally pulled in – early evening – to our campsite in North Carolina. The next day, we drove two hours north where we were reunited with our precious family. I’m still battling the side-effects of the Prednisone, which was prescribed to counter the Bell’s Palsy. And, just two days ago, the top of a tree fell on the roof of our RV – more misadventures! BUT…through it all, the Lord has kept us safe, smiling and sailing forward! Nothing has happened that we haven’t been able to handle as He’s empowered us!

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Photo by Donna Hailson

AND we now carry with us memories of Napa and Sonoma counties, Bodega Bay, Point Reyes, the Marin Valley Cheese Trail, “SoCal,” the Sierra Nevadas, Death Valley (and its Zabriskie Point, Scotty’s Castle, Artist’s Palette, Mesquite Dunes, Dante’s View, Badwater…), the Dumont Dunes, Las Vegas, Zion, Bryce, the Painted Desert, Kanab, Sedona, Grand Canyon, Albuquerque, Memphis, the Appalachians, the Great Smokeys…I have learned so much over these days of wayfaring but will end this with just a summary note today: it takes a sense of humor, an excellent insurance company, and confidence in the love of the Lord to manage life on the road. The scripture that speaks most especially to our adventures and misadventures is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”

*****

GRAND CANYON, BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK AND KANAB, UTAH

Inside the Grand Canyon Visitors’ Center at Mather Point.
Photo by Donna Hailson

According to the Grand Canyon National Park website, nearly five million people visit the one mile deep Grand Canyon each year. Most see it from overlooks along the South Rim at stops including Grand Canyon Village, Hermits Rest, and Desert View. The South Rim is the most accessible part of the park and is open all year.

Grand Canyon from Mather Point.
Photo by Donna Hailson

A much smaller number of people see the Canyon from the North Rim which lies just 10 miles, as the condor flies, directly across the Canyon from the South Rim.

The North Rim rises a thousand feet higher than the South and is not as easily accessible. Heavy snows close the road to the North Rim from late October to mid May of each year. We were among those who – unsuccessfully – tried to see the big hole in the ground from this vantage point.

We were told by a man at Jacob’s Lake, a place one passes on the approach to the North Rim, that we might be able to get to our intended destination via a steep, loose-gravel road on which we could easily lose control of our vehicle. He even provided us with a map. That option didn’t hold out a lot of appeal to us so, instead, we turned back to Bryce Canyon National Park, known for its fabulous hoodoos. A hoodoo (also called a tent rock, fairy chimney, or earth pyramid) is a tall, thin spire of rock that protrudes from an arid drainage basin or badland. An example is “The Poodle” pictured below.

Home base for us for five nights became Kanab, Utah where we also visited Moqui Cave, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, and the Movie Set Museum. From 1924 up to today, Kanab has billed itself as “LIttle Hollywood” because it has so regularly served as a film location. The area has been used in TV shows such as Daniel Boone, Gunsmoke and The Lone Ranger and in movies from Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales to the Rat Pack’s Sergeants Three. 

From here, we went on to use Flagstaff, Arizona as the staging point for our visit to Sedona (with its Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village, Hillside Sedona, and the lavishly lush and green Oak Creek Canyon and Coconino National Forest) and the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.

*****

KITSCHY KISSIMMEE

Photo by Donna Hailson

The four of us (my husband Gene, our two Old English Sheepdogs Mac and Molly, and I) took a tour of kitschy Kissimmee. We just drove along looking for the cheesiest and campiest and, when it appeared, I leapt out and captured it.

All of these photos, save for the one of the dogs, were taken along Route 192. Our vehicle is a 2011 Dodge Ram 3500 with dual rear wheels and a mega cab. With the rear seats completely folded down and a blanket in place, both dogs easily have enough room in their section of the cab – about 24 square feet – to stretch out to their hearts’ content. They can also stand comfortably back there as they have about three feet from the platform to the ceiling. That does nothing, of course, to discourage them from taking over the front of the cab as well. Incidentally, we didn’t pose Mac and Molly; every time we get out of the truck, Mac moves into the driver’s seat.

Photo by Donna Hailson
Photo by Donna Hailson

 

*****

SCENIC, SOUTH DAKOTA: AN ALMOST GHOST TOWN FOR SALE (NOW SOLD)

The Longhorn Store. One of the signs reads: “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust. If we don’t have it, it isn’t a must.”
Photo by Donna Hailson

I’d been wondering why quite a number of people had stopped by the website  over the last few days chasing a link to Scenic, South Dakota. I discovered that the almost ghost town – where Gene and I had an address for six weeks this summer – is for sale.  Earlier on, I’d posted some photographs of the place and I’m reposting those now for folks who might wish to consider purchasing the 46 acres of Wild West property abutting the Badlands.

Lee Ann Keester and her mother Twila Merrill are reportedly hoping to get as much as $799,000 for the Pennington County West River land that includes 12 acres of “town.”

The Longhorn Saloon (“Indians Allowed”) and adjacent buildings…including the jail.
Photo by Donna Hailson

“The businesses and land have always been family-run, but now, it’s time for someone else to come in and bring it back to life,” Keester told The Rapid City Journal. “It’s just me and my mom now, and now, with her health being what it is, it’s just too much for us.”

Leo Stangle (who is one of only eight town residents) told the Journal that Scenic was quite the place in its day: “It was once a cowboy and railroad town — and maybe a little rough now and then.”

At one time, Scenic had a functioning bank, grocery stores, a church, a high school and even a hotel but it began to decline in the 1930s as the Great Depression set in.

“Farmers had big families to feed, and there just wasn’t enough employment for everyone anymore, so gradually, people started to leave, and then the businesses in town suffered and also started shutting down,” Stangle said. “People had no choice but to move out.”

The Longhorn Second Time Around.
Photo by Donna Hailson

Scenic still sees vehicles pass through but those vehicles rarely stop. Gene and I did stop but only long enough to take a few photographs.

“The town sees around 700 cars go through on a day-to-day basis,” David Olsen, broker associate for Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate, told the  Journal. “We just need one to stop long enough to get a buyer in here.”

The listing, as I noted, includes 46 acres. Twelve of those acres are in the “business district” and the remaining 34 sit adjacent. To be included in the sale is a U.S Post Office land lease, the Longhorn Fuel & Food Convenience Store, the Longhorn Saloon, a very large dance hall with a basketball court, a large museum with knotty pine interiors, a bunkhouse that sleeps eight to ten, an historic train depot, a working jail, an abandoned historic jail, two homes (one modular) and several out-buildings.

News of the sale has been picked up by major media outlets like CNN . . . better hop on this fast if you’re interested!

*****

YELLOWSTONE

Photo by Donna Hailson

From the east, one approaches Yellowstone National Park via US Highway 14-16-20, the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway. The road follows the North Fork of the Shoshone River through the scenic Wapiti Valley. About six miles west of the city of Cody, travelers make their way through several tunnels carved out of towering mountain rock. The interiors of the tunnels have been left rough-hewn; there is no apparent “lining,” just the paved surface beneath you and the archway that surrounds you.

Water gushing from two of the spillways at the Buffalo Bill Dam.
Photo by Donna Hailson

As you emerge from the last tunnel, you are met by the Buffalo Bill Dam and Reservoir. Col. William Cody (aka Buffalo Bill), founder of Cody, Wyoming, spent many years and much effort promoting his dream of irrigating thousands of dry acres east of Cody from the Shoshone River. Construction on the dam began in October of 1905 and was completed in January of 1910. Its original height at completion was 328 feet; at the time, it was the highest in the world. An eight-year modification project, undertaken in 1993, increased the dam’s height to 353 feet. A brochure, available at the Visitor Center, notes that 25.5 megawatts of power generation capacity was part of that modification project. Today, the reservoir continues to provides recreation, irrigation and drinking water for Cody and much of the Big Horn Basin.

Photo by Donna Hailson

From here, we continued on to the East Entrance to Yellowstone. Gene had qualified for the Interagency Lifetime Pass, which – for a one-time fee of $10 – grants holders (62 and older) free admission to all of the nation’s parks. So, this presented, and clearly set-out guides, maps and road signs (noting mileage and estimated driving times to each destination) now in hand, we passed through the gate and were immediately greeted by bison butt. A big bull, seemingly oblivious to all the vehicular traffic, just took his time meandering along – on the roadway. The trucks, cars and RVs granted him a wide berth.

Backing into our site at Fishing Bridge.
Photo by Donna Hailson

Before doing much in the way of exploring, we needed to unhitch the truck from the fifth-wheel. I’d made reservations a few days earlier at Fishing Bridge, a hard-side-only campground 27 miles from the East Entrance. Fishing Bridge is in an area frequented by bears (thus the prohibition against tents and soft-sided campers). I might note that there are seven campgrounds in the park and nightly rates range from $12 to $37. Fishing Bridge has been experiencing problems with electric hookups for more than a year now so we were charged a reduced rate of $31 for water and sewer hookups only. All of the sites in this campground are back-in only; this presents quite a challenge when your truck and 37-foot RV total 55 feet in full rig.

We encountered here and everywhere many printed, posted and verbalized warnings about bear activity. Most particularly, at Fishing Bridge, we were ordered not to leave unattended, day or night, unless in immediate use: “water and beverage containers; cooking, eating and drinking utensils; stoves and grills; coolers and ice chests; trash and garbage, bagged or not; food, including condiments, even if in containers; cosmetics and toiletries; pet food and bowls; and pails, bucket and wash basins.” At every turn, we were cautioned to be vigilantly “bear aware.”

Grizzly at Yellowstone National Park. Photo Credit: Gene Hailson.
Grizzly at Yellowstone National Park.
Photo by Gene Hailson

We were quick to discover, however, that bear allure has the power to uproot all common sense from some individuals. When we were on our trip around the park’s upper loop, we happened on a Grizzly. We couldn’t quite believe our eyes when two men in a nearby vehicle leapt out and made their way into the woods with cameras and tripods in hand. Gene took the photograph found on this page from his truck window, a distance of about 20 feet from the bear. Close enough.

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