As I begin typing today’s post, it’s 6:30am. The dogs have been walked, fed and medicated. I’m on my second cup of coffee, listening to rain pound on Ernie’s roof. The forecast tells me that it won’t let up ’til around noon.
That’s fine — knock wood, the bus is doing its job of keeping us dry and warm.
With some quiet time (Deb’s still in bed) I looked back at some of the bars we’ve set since May. Other travelers climb much higher and venture much farther, of course, but I don’t care — this is a chronicle, not a contest. So this morning I’ll update our personal catalog of extremes, beginning with elevation.
- Starting elevation: 828 feet (Second Chance Ranch, Ohio)
- Current elevation: 1,176 feet (Harrison, Arkansas)
- Lowest elevation: 415 feet (Cotter, Arkansas)
- Highest elevation (bus): 6,420 feet (Homestake, Montana)
- Highest elevation (Jeep): 5,389 feet (Lead, South Dakota)
- Lowest campsite: 437 feet (Flippin, Arkansas)
- Highest campsite: 4,840 feet (Deadwood, South Dakota)
I was surprised to discover that a couple of our campsites were as low as they are — 510 feet on Joe Pool Lake in Grand Prairie, Texas and 437 feet on the White River in Flippin, Arkansas. Over a vertical mile separates them from our Rocky Mountain High in Montana.
Now, how far have we pushed the four points of the compass?
- Eastern extreme: 82.6818383126853° W (at a truck stop near Carroll, Ohio, in the bus)
- Southern extreme: 29.55448291554802° N (exiting Loop 1604 outside San Antonio, Texas, in the bus)
- Western extreme: 114.37528279027329° W (on the Kintla Lake Road above the North Fork of the Flathead River, 2.1 miles southwest of Kintla Lake, in the Jeep)
- Northern extreme: 48.93592041071417° N (near the end of the Kintla Lake Road, 4.5 miles due south of the Canadian border, in the Jeep)
To complete that picture, the farthest west the bus has traveled is 114.24605422787798° W (Columbia Falls, Montana), reaching its northern extreme at 48.49714525195653° N (West Glacier, Montana). The Jeep, which didn’t join us ’til the end of June, has rolled under its own power south to 36.018931692384896° N (Ponca, Arkansas) and east to 92.32854030965795° W (Mountain Home, Arkansas).
And for the record, we climbed past 5,000 feet more than two dozen times in our travels, twice crossing the Continental Divide: Homestake Pass (6,329 feet, Interstate 90) on September 1st; and Marias Pass (5,213 feet, US Route 2) on September 16th.
I also figured out that we spent more time on I-90 than on any other single highway — Ernie and Mercy logged about 2,400 miles (combined) on that road alone. In September, however, we went 15 calendar days and four travel days without seeing an Interstate highway. The Ernie-Mercy rig also did three other travel days entirely off the Interstates.
Such things fascinate me, taking over my thoughts from time to time. But that’s all for today.
Picking this up now later in the morning, and damn, it’s soggy here. Back in the spring we had a long stretch of wet weather during our first visit to Arkansas, both at this campground and a couple east of here, but I don’t remember it being as persistent as this.
Deb and I did have our anniversary dinner yesterday. DeVito’s wasn’t busy when we arrived, so we got a table by the window with a view of the trout farm across the road. The meal, of course, was outstanding — steak for her, Italian for me.
Best of all was the quiet conversation. It felt good to be still. We reflected on the road we’ve traveled — the last five-and-a-half months and the 15 years since our wedding day.
We’ve come a long way. Only the two of us know just how far.
Beginning tomorrow we’ll assume the role of hosts. Friends we camped with at that low spot in Grand Prairie are rolling in to spend several days here on their way home to Texas. Then a week from today our boys will show up, accompanied by their ladies, and will be here through next weekend.
Today we fluffed up the bus a bit more. We made a quick dash for groceries and supplies. Once our guests arrive in The Ozarks we’ll show off our favorite places and suggest a few more worth exploring — we won’t be relentless entertainers any more than we expect to be relentlessly entertained.
It should be fun. And when we bid our visiting friends and family good-bye we’ll still be here, waiting for autumn to show its colors — the blush and the glow, a nip in the morning air.
This evening, in the wake of the front that brought rain, it’s windy and downright chilly — mid-50s, expected to drop another ten degrees by sunup. Fall is here.
So are we.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.
(Today’s header image: Following the southern boundary of Glacier Park on US Route 2, September 16th.)