We fire up the mothership on the first day of fall 2014. Our time in Maine has ended and we will move our home across the nation headed to our winter location along the Colorado River in Arizona. We were reminded by the sharpness of the early morning temperatures that an early season snow is a high probably in Maine. There are two four-letter words that make us move: snow and cold. After all, we are snowbirds!
One thing about the eastern.U.S. is it is hard to find a way out of the region that does not entail extensive use of toll highways. While the use of toll highways is sometimes unavoidable when moving westward, limiting their use across this part of the country just makes common sense. The recent experience of a $68 toll just to drive across a New York City area bridge was fresh on my mind. It helped to motivate and discover an alternative route whose purpose was to avoid as many toll highways as possible.
While we were trying to map our specific route, we were lucky to gather valuable information for one of our Maine co-hosts. For years, he was a long-distance trucker. His experience was our gain. We were able to determine our route across the five eastern states that extensively avoided tolls highways when traveling west.
With that route, we steadily moved westward across Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Pennsylvania. We are quite pleased as the route allows us to travel through less traveled sections. We are doing what Nomads really desire; to see the United States.
We are also blessed to see these states when they are bathed in the cusp of fall colors. Everywhere there are areas of intense reds, oranges and yellows that are inter-mingled with trees and vegetation still cloaked in their vivid summer green. It is a wonderful delightful visually-pleasing trip!
One of our goals this summer was to gain experience with our volunteer work and applying that experience toward obtaining positions within the National Wildlife Refuge systems. They don’t allow camping and are focused upon ecological education, invasive species intervention and species preservation. They are always in beautiful places with tons of birds, wildlife and fish.
Our specific focus now is to travel back into Minnesota and leave our updated resumes at a 48 thousand acre refuge called Tamarac that is near Detroit Lakes, MN. It has a recently remodeled Visitor center and an under-construction Discovery building that is focused entirely on education/display of how diverse biological systems within the refuge operate. Its acreage includes 11 lakes and thousands of acres of shallow surrounding wet lands. It is a summer home for many Trumpeter Swans and thousands of migrating waterfowl! This is just a fisherman’s and photographer’s dream location.
After meeting the Refuge’s administrators and dropping off our updated resume and letters of recommendation, we head south. Traveling through North & South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, we again take the non-interstate routes. We find they give us a neat and unique individual flavor of each area we travel through. There is some magical traveling down highways whose road shoulders are filled almost right to the asphalt’s edge with high rise corn fields. My mind revisits “Field of Dreams.”
After exiting the Panhandle of Oklahoma, we travel into the vast openness of Texas. It is void of vivid color that accented the northern states and the highway is surrounded with constant browns and greys that testify that the vegetation has endured a long hot summer. Yet the country is clean and the far horizon just magnifies the vastness of the late summer sunsets.
All of our nomad travels have used Albuquerque, NM as a constant pass through. Jude has family located here and after three days of traveling, we welcome a brief respite there. This year we were going to visit Jude’s oldest Granddaughter who has just entered her freshman year enrolled at Fort Lewis College located in Durango, Colorado. It was a wonderful opportunity to travel by car looking at all the terrain changes and scenery through upper New Mexico and into the 7000 feet altitude surrounding Durango. After spending a whole summer near the Atlantic Ocean in Maine & Maryland, I quickly feel the effects of altitude sickness. I drink plenty of water and avoid a lot of exercise and quickly adjust.
After NM, we travel a short distance to one of our favorite spots. For years, we have enjoyed staying at Roper Lake State Park near Safford, AZ. It is an absolute oasis in the desert. It is always full of resident birds including Cardinals, Vermillion Flycatchers, and raptors along with a constant turnover of migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. It a welcome rest from our traverse from New England and Minnesota.
We have traveled nearly 4000 miles. A monument to that amount of travel is what looks like 1000 pounds of dead bugs on Mothership’s front grill. I am actually amazed at the collection and marvel at the variety of different colored grasshoppers, dragon & butterflies and God knows what else! I laugh but draw a tub of soapy water and set out scrubbing.
One thing about Roper Lake is that it is just a small sojourn to Tucson. We always look forward to the reconnection of all of our close friends in Tucson. There are tales to tell, photos to share and great laughs. It is such a special thing to have great friends.
I am looking forward to traveling to Lake Havasu. We are going to stay at Lake Havasu Springs. It is a Colorado River resort located right on the shores of the lake. It is adjacent to the Bill Williams National Refuge area and of course great fishing.
When we arrive at the lake, we were shocked to find the best RV site with the best view was waiting for us. It had the most magnificent view overlooking the lake and the far shoreline. We happily occupy it and start the process of settling in for a six month winter retreat from our nomad travels. Jude and I look forward to making new friends.