From Illinois, I headed to Marshfield, Missouri, where I met a first cousin for the first time. People ask how it’s possible that I have a first cousin I’ve never met. It’s because my uncle had a daughter in between his two marriages, and he didn’t meet that child until she was a grown woman. Once I knew she existed, I just never made it a priority to get to Missouri until now. I totally regret that, because Dixie is an amazing person and I wish she had been in my life all these years.
I met five of Dixie’s six children, seven of her ten grandchildren, and two of her four step-grandchildren. I have never seen a family where every single person is so happy, grounded, bright and respectful. It just felt good being with them. I especially enjoyed having 5 year old Abby take a nap on my lap, and holding little 8-month old Ellie while she laughed:
One night, we had a “Show and Tell”, with my computer hooked up to their television so together we could see our family tree and pictures of our relatives and ancestors, and hear all the family stories. That was great fun and definitely cemented our family connection for all of us.
I was sad to leave Dixie and her beautiful family, but I was also excited to head west. I hooked up my car in Marshfield in the dark, at 5:30 am. Last Christmas, Eric gave me a headlamp which I use all the time – hands-free light, wherever I need it! I try to hook the car up the night before a departure, but sometimes the site configuration doesn’t allow for it.
About halfway to my overnight destination in Sayre, Oklahoma, I passed a police vehicle with its lights flashing on the side of the road. The next thing I knew, he was following me with his lights still flashing. Did he want me to pull over? I certainly wasn’t speeding – the limit on I-44 was 75 mph, and I was only going 62. The shoulder was very narrow, but I decided I’d better pull over.
It took about a half hour for him to give me a written warning because my right front headlight was out. Sheesh, it was broad daylight and I didn’t even need to have the lights on – I wished I had turned them off once the sun came up. On the bright side, all of my paperwork was in order, thank goodness.
So of course for the rest of the drive that day, I wondered whether I would be able to figure out how to change the bulb, or if I would have to take the RV to a repair shop. I was planning to leave in the dark again the next morning, and knew I needed to take care of it before then.
I arrived at the Bobcat Creek RV Park in Sayre around 2:30 pm, and the owner says, “Looks like we’ll be gettin’ some weather tonight”. So I asked what that meant. Well, there was gonna be some heavy winds and rain, and possibly a tornado. He pointed out the underground tornado refuge not far from my campsite, and said I would hear the sirens in town, and he would make sure all the campers were gathered together. Holy Oklahoma!! A tornado is not healthy at all for an RV!
My first concern was to take care of the headlight before the storm came. I opened the hood, and it was just not obvious at all how one would access the bulb.
So I checked the internet, and to my great relief a kind soul had posted photographs of exactly how to remove the casing and access the bulb, which I was able to do with the help of the incredibly nice campground owner (the trick is to pull up and back on those two little black tabs above the light).
Then it was off to the auto parts store, where they had the correct bulb; I bought two, just in case. Back at the campsite, I was able to install it and put everything back together. Whew!
About a half hour later, I saw the owner wandering around, and went out to ask him what was up. He looked at the sky and said, “Looks like some wind is coming – you better get inside”. And seconds later the wind was so strong that I had to fight it to get the door to the RV closed – I flashed on Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.
It wasn’t a tornado, but the wind was so strong that the RV was rocking, and it was being pounded hard by what looked like white rocks. I initially thought that the wind was stirring up all the gravel around us; the sound of those rocks on the roof was absolutely deafening. It was frankly quite terrifying.
It turned out to be hail – very large balls of ice. How does that happen on an 80 degree day?? My car now has little dents on the side that was facing the wind.
I was very glad to leave Oklahoma and head on to Albuquerque.
From there on, the trip was relatively uneventful. I drove probably 200 miles out of my way to avoid going through the mountains. The direct route from Albuquerque is to head west on I-40 to Flagstaff, and then south on I-17 to Phoenix. After referring to my Mountain Directory, which I acquired after overheating on a steep hill in upstate New York, I decided to go south from Albuquerque on I-25 through Truth or Consequences, and then west on I-10 though Deming and Tuscon.
I loved driving through the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona – it brought back many memories of the time I worked at the Grand Canyon when I was 19 and 20 years old. The whole area has always been magical to me. It quite literally stirs my heart to be there.
And at the end of the road, this was my reward: