Road Trip – This is the Wrap

 

Alice’s Route 4/23/17 – 6/4/17  — 8,710 miles, 42 days

The odyssey is over. Tango and I are safely arrived in Franklin, NC, where we will quietly enjoy the summer.  No road trips anticipated.  😀

Zeke, Kelli, me, Taryn, Orion, Skylar and Erin… Mother’s Day in Long Beach, CA

Brenann, Evan, Mike, Alice and Stacy..the O’Learys in Hailey, ID.

Tango in the Turnbull N.W.R. near Spokane, WA.

We traveled 8,710 miles! Honestly, I never expected that.  Side trips got added and the end result was many more miles than I anticipated. But those detours allowed me to visit with family, some of whom I had not seen in a long while.  That was grand.

We made a completely unexpected trip to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and met a family who I felt that I knew but had never met.  I wrote about that in my blog, “On the Road — Memories and Magic.”

There were three conferences–two on medical cannabis where I learned so much my head is still spinning.  This issue, that has consumed forty years of my life (see aliceolearyrandall.com), is simply exploding with new knowledge. The discovery of the endogenous cannabinoid system is a blessing for us all.  Lives will be better in coming years thanks to the tireless work of so many activists, healthcare practitioners and researchers.

To those shaking their heads and asking why a 69 year-old woman, and her faithful companion Tango, would undertake such an adventure I can only shake my head in return and ask, “Why not?”  Perhaps it was growing up with the weekly Dinah Shore Show in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Sponsored by a U.S. carmaker, the singing star would always sign-off with her catchy jingle,  “See the USA, in your Chevrolet/America is asking you to call/See the USA in your Chevrolet/America’s the greatest land of all.”  Darn right Dinah!  It is a wonder of a land and those who don’t take the time to visit its wonder are squandering their own wealth. And I can add this, if any of my fellow baby boomers are looking for those wide-open roads of our youth they still exist in the vast Western states of Montana, the Dakotas, and Idaho. (P.S. Stick to the secondary roads, they are the greatest.)

To my faithful readers – thanks. Your comments and observations made things all the more enjoyable. I’ll try to post some pictures from the trip in coming weeks.

Happy trails! ❧

On the Road – The Dakotas

Alice and Tango at Painted Canyon

If you enter North Dakota from the west, traveling from Montana along Interstate 94, one of the first things you will see is a billboard which simply says, “Be Polite.” I knew I was going to love ND.

The state has been on my radar for years but, let’s be honest, it is not exactly on the way to anything, with the possible exception of Canada. According to Wikipedia, “North Dakota is the 19th most extensive but the 4th least populous and the 4th least densely populated of the 50 United States.”  That translates into “big and empty.” I can confirm this to be true.

I wanted to visit North Dakota in order to see the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP), which is located in the western part of ND.  Even the TRNP is huge, with two sections, north and south, that are separated by nearly eighty miles.  The parks began to intrigue me three years ago, after I visited the Badlands N.P. in South Dakota. To a certain extent, the TRNP is an extension of those fabulous lands in SD. I knew I had to go there.

Teddy Roosevelt, our 26th president, actually lived in ND for several years following the deaths of  his wife and mother on the same day (just twelve hours apart).  He credits the land with revitalizing his spirit and I have no doubt that is true.  I found nature to wonderfully healing after the death of my husband in 2001 and during my work as a grief counselor I would often advise my clients to “get out doors.”

In Teddy’s case, not surprisingly, he had a “bully” outdoors to get into. The parklands where he once lived and raised cattle are as bold and dramatic as the man for which they are named. The rock formations, left by complex and dramatic geologic events many thousands of years ago, have created a colorful and magical land filled with canyons, hoodoos, concretions, and vistas. The Little Missouri River, a central character in the creation of this park, meanders peacefully through both parks.  Bison are plentiful in both units, as are wild horses and prairie dogs. The northern unit has, IMHO, the best vistas.  The scene from Riverbend Overlook (the most photographed spot in all of ND I was assured)  is breathtaking.

Riverbend Overlook in the north unit of TRNP.

I had hoped to spend two full days at the park but the weather turned hot overnight, changing the days from delightful temperatures in the high 70s to readings in the low 90s.  This posed a problem: dogs are not allowed on the hiking trails and it was too hot to leave Tango in the van.  Even the shortest of hikes was out of the question.  So we visited every overlook and sat enjoying the views.  Tango, being an absolute people magnet, brought some delightful people our way and we enjoyed short conversations with folks from all over the U.S. and some Asians.  All of us agreed that TRNP is spectacular, well worth the journey.

My epic journey is winding down. We settled for a day and a half at TRNP and this morning we turned the van east and headed for Fawn Hill in North Carolina. It was a long driving day and we are still in the Dakotas. It’s big out here, folks, but worth the effort.❧

 

On the Road – Four Great Days in Idaho

Tango and our van on Idaho Rt. 33.

Today Tango and I turned the van eastward and began our journey home. The magnificent Western mountain ranges that have filled my windshield for nearly four weeks — the Rockies, Sierra Nevadas, Cascades, Pioneers — are sadly becoming relegated to my rearview mirror, growing smaller with each mile.

Our weekend was spent in Hailey, a charming town located in the Sun Valley of Idaho. My nephew and his family–four decidedly South Californians (Michael, his wife Stacy and children Evan and Brenann)–moved to Hailey last summer.  Unusual?  Not at all. Californians appear to be moving to Idaho in droves. Michael explained it is a topic that often came up when they would get together with friends in Fallbrook but it was always a “some day” conversation.  For the Fallbrook O’Learys that “some day” was last July.

Idaho is beautiful.  Not being a winter person I can’t say that I would want to live there year-round.  This past winter gave my nephew’s family a baptism by snow.  All records were shattered. In Ketchum, just a few miles up the road from Hailey, they recorded 112″ of snow. For the math-challenged readers, that’s just 8 inches shy of 10 feet.  TEN FEET OF SNOW!  But at the present time it is gorgeous with mild temperatures and long days.

I had not seen my nephew in fifteen years. A shocking admission in today’s age I suppose but there has been a continent between us for all those years. As I drove today I reflected on communicating with far-flung family. I passed Goodale’s Cutoff, a place where emigrants drove their wagons across the high desert, trying to get around the massive lava flows that now make up the Craters of the Moon N.P.  For those hearty souls there was little hope that they would ever hear from the loved ones left behind, much less have a visit.  As I cruise along in my well-appointed van my mind often drifts to those extraordinary people who risked it all to find a better life.  Much has changed in the intervening 150 years but the quest for a better life remains and leads some to Hailey. I think they have the right idea and I wish them well. ❧

Brenann, Evan, Mike, Alice and Stacy..the O’Learys in Hailey.

On the Road – Memories and Magic

Jack, Josh and Janet Andrews. Cannabis helped Josh beat cancer when he was a toddler.

Faithful readers know I am on a cross-country trip with my canine companion Tango. Some of those faithful readers, but not all, know that I have a long history with the medical cannabis issue (to learn more please visit aliceolearyrandall.com). I have kept medical cannabis out of my Alice’s WanderLand blog for various reasons but primarily because I am not a 24/7 cannabis person. There is so much more to life than cannabis (aka, marijuana).  Alice’s WanderLand is my touchstone with the wonders and beauty of life…either through pictures or words.

But medical cannabis is often wondrous and beautiful. That statement was brought home vividly today in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho where I finally met a family who, 37 years ago, were battling the unimaginable — their three year-old had cancer.

Things were very bad. Young Josh couldn’t eat and if he did manage to eat the chemotherapy made him vomit. When you’re 3 years-old you don’t have a lot to lose in terms of body weight. Janet and Jack realized they must do something. They were watching their child die.

It was 1980 and medical cannabis wasn’t the national issue that it is today. Still, there was plenty of information out there about cancer chemotherapy patients having good success with using marijuana to quell the nausea and vomiting associated with their treatments. A friend sent Janet a magazine article about the topic. Janet immediately made some calls to friends who could help her get marijuana. Then she brewed the cannabis into tea and baked it in to brownies.

Josh, who was readily compliant with other medications, balked at the odd tasting tea and didn’t much care for the peculiar brownies. But he ingested them and the results were “miraculous.”  While other children on the cancer ward vomited into buckets, Josh would ride his tricycle up and down the halls.

Janet called NORML looking for help and I was working there at the time, heading up the Medical Reclassification Project. Later Janet would help Robert and I when we formed the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics in 1981. She provided testimony in the historic DEA Rescheduling hearings before Judge Frances Young in the late 1980s. The judge was clearly moved by their story and extensively quoted Janet’s affidavit in his decision that cannabis should be re-scheduled.

After Josh beat his cancer, Jack and Janet returned to their lives and we lost touch. In the intervening years I found myself wondering what happened to Josh. Facebook helped me track down both he and his mother.  While Coeur d’Alene wasn’t exactly on my route, the detour seemed a small inconvenience given the chance to meet a family that had given much to an important issue. The medical cannabis issue is far from being solved but things are so much better, in part because of Janet and Jack Andrews, who had the courage and love to fight for their son, Josh. ❧

 

On the Road – God Bless the U.S.A.

Map for blog

Alice & Tango’s route so far – 4/23 to 5/14

I am just shy of three weeks on the road, about halfway through the trip. It has been great fun.  I think everyone should leave the safety of their home cocoon and get out in the world.  Despite the rather spooky presence of nearly identical shopping malls in every fair–sized hamlet, you can still catch the regional flavors that make this land a wonderful smorgasbord of ideas, ambitions, and realities.  How have we ever managed to hold it together for all these years?  Will we manage to keep it together in this current time?

Here in California you frequently hear a joking reference to seceding from the Union. With the seventh largest economy in the world, it could certainly survive on its own. No doubt the comments are similar to those uttered in the South 150 years ago, remarks  that ultimately led to the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi where Tango and I stopped just a few weeks ago.

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Oklahoma City Memorial

And in Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh so hated the federation of the United States that he was willing to destroy hundreds of innocent lives in the name of some warped concept of a “white only” world that would rise up in answer to his atrocious act.

Make no mistake, there are problems in the U.S. of A.  Big ones. Poverty, both economic and spiritual, tops the list.  You can see the poverty, especially in the South. And even though our poorest souls have much more than many in the world at large they are still suffering. Telling them to give up their cell phones to buy health insurance really isn’t the answer.  And to be told that “no one dies from not having health insurance” is insulting. People will tolerate such treatment for only so long.

We have entered one of those phases in history where the people must guide the democracy because, obviously, there is no leadership at the top.  The corruption is mammoth in scale and must be removed.  It is our job, as citizens, to set the ship of state right again. And from what I have seen on this trip and in the news, the people are ready. ❧

On the Road – Day 4

Grace2One of my favorite TV series is “Saving Grace.” (It originally aired on TNT 2007-2010 and is now available on Netflix.)  Holly Hunter plays an Oklahoma City detective named Grace who is visited by Earl, a lovable angel.  Grace is a nice twist on the prostitute with a heart of gold.  She sleeps around, drinks too much, and is a wicked jokester but she’s also ethical and a good cop.

A major story line is the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995. Grace’s sister died in the blast but it should have been Grace, who was too hung-over to go down to the Social Security Office and apply for her nephew’s card. Now Grace is helping to raise the nephew and they have frequent talks about the bombing.  And they visit the memorial park that was constructed on the site of the bombing.

And that is what led me to Oklahoma City today.

The bombing happened on April 19, 1995. It was horrific, killing 168 people and ripping apart an enormous building in the heart of OKC. But, practically speaking, I missed all of it.  April 1995 was not a good time for me. My husband was six months into his diagnosis of AIDS.  In early April he nearly died when his gallbladder became inflamed and then went necrotic. Surgery saved him but rendered him, as he said, “weak as a kitten.”  We had already decided to move back to Florida, to be near family for support, and wheels were in motion that were threatening to run me down. Movers had been contracted, boxes were getting packed and deadlines loomed. I recall buying something at a store and asking the clerk about the ribbon she was wearing. She looked at me as if I was an alien. “It’s for the bombing victims,” she declared with just a hint of “you idiot.”

Twelve years later “Saving Grace” came on the air and its interwoven theme reminded me of those times.  Odd as it may seem, I felt badly that I hadn’t felt badly in 1995. So today I stopped by to pay my respects.

Earl must have been on my shoulder because I managed to get a parking space directly across the street. It was a raw, cold day so it was little wonder that there were no crowds. And the memorial, like the building that once stood there, is literally in the middle of the city. It is amazing that more buildings didn’t collapse.

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Side view of the Oklahoma City bombing museum

I should have visited the museum but I didn’t. It is housed in an original part of the Murrah Building that survived the blast, the scars of that terrible day are very evident.  I’m sure it is excellent but I worried about leaving Tango in the van for too long and, truth to tell, I am not the best museum browser.

So I made the quick walk to the memorial sculpture/garden and as I gazed at it across a beautiful reflection pool I was surprised at the tears that gathered in my eyes. The design is so personal and so simple–168 chairs in nine rows reflecting the nine floors of the Murrah Building.   The placement of the chair corresponds with the floor on which the person would have been at the time of the blast. The smaller chairs represent the children that died. Five chairs set away from the others represent those that were outside the building.  Each chair has a glass foundation with a name engraved.  It reminded me of  “Our Town,” the Thornton Wilder play in which the dead occupy chairs and reflect on life and eternity.  Certainly in that quiet park, that was once so horribly torn asunder, it is easy to do the same.

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The Oklahoma City National Memorial

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Perhaps Wilder captured the essence of why I visited the Memorial when the main character speaks these lines:

“We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”

On the Road – Day 2

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Tango by one of the many Union and Confederate cannons.

Today Tango and I crossed the states of Alabama and Mississippi, stopping in Vicksburg on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Vicksburg is notable for being the spot where the first Coca Cola was bottled in 1894. It was also the site of one of the critical battles of the American Civil War.  In 1863, from May 18th until July 4th, the Union forces laid siege on Vicksburg.  The armies totaled 110,000 men–more than twice the current population of Vicksburg.  Causalities were more than 37,000–a number that does not include the civilians of Vicksburg who were trapped along with the Confederate soldiers.

Vicksburg’s strategic place along the Mississippi made it a “must win” for the Union. Abraham Lincoln declared Vicksburg “the Key” to winning the Civil War.

Today the land on which the Yanks and the Rebels squared off against one another is preserved as a National Park.  With close to 150 years of recovery, the landscape no longer resembles the war-ravaged land of 1863.  Monuments grace the 1,800 acres and the Park Service clearly has its hands full keeping the grass trimmed back.  You can hardly believe there was ever the carnage and suffering that is depicted in the exhibits.

Why visit such a place, you might ask?  Why care about a war that is long gone and that many college students can’t even tell you who won (it was the Union)?  It has to do with perspective, I think.  There are many who feel these are the worst of times in the U.S.  But there was a time in this country when we set about to slaughter one another and did a darn good job of it. Estimates are that 620,000 people died in the Civil War, which was only four years long.  Do the math…155,000 a year, 12,917 a month!  Add to that the mammoth destruction of property in the South.  It was a horrific time….

Yet today soft green grasses of spring wave peacefully on the hillsides. The trees have that rich color of new growth and birds are everywhere collecting the makings of their springtime nests.  Butterflies flitter about and dozens of people, like me, stopped by to pay their respects to this hallowed ground.   Things may be a little tough right now but let us hope we never return to the horror that was the American Civil War.  ❖