From the moment we woke up today, Deb and I have been fielding messages of concern. Many of our friends have seen news reports of devastation wrought by powerful tornadoes that rolled through the central US overnight, including a headline story about an Arkansas nursing home leveled by the storm, taking at least one life.
You may consider us “marked safe.” We were under a tornado watch most of the night, but the twisters didn’t start touching down until the system reached northeast Arkansas. The nursing home that was destroyed is in Monette, about 150 miles ESE of Harrison.
Not that we didn’t feel the storm’s effects — the bus was a-rockin’ all night long and well into this morning. The cold front that spawned the system brought us wake-up temps in the mid-30s. But in all the ways that matter, yeah, we’re just fine. Thanks for askin’.
Now, if you’re able, please do what you can to help the Americans whose communities and lives have been wrecked by these storms.
We consider it a real stroke of luck to have a Polaris Off-Road dealer in Harrison. Though it’s an hour from where we park our Ranger on The Mountain, it’s only ten minutes down the road from our campground.
If we need service or repair we can’t handle ourselves, we’d have to trailer it over here, of course. But it’s nice knowing that we have a source of parts and factory expertise relatively close by.
When we dropped by the dealer the other day we got to talking with one of the sales guys. He’s a young fellow who’d just started working for the company’s powersports shop after a couple of years on the cars-and-trucks side. I told him what we’d been up to over the last seven months, and how in mid-odyssey we’d come back to northern Arkansas to shop for a toad.
He glanced out the showroom window at our Mercy.
“Oh, ’round here everybody knows The Orange Kamikaze,” he said with a grin. “I recollect I sold your Wrangler twice myself.”
So apparently we didn’t just buy a Jeep — we bought a reputation.
We’d hiked nearly to the top of The Mountain a few weeks before taking the Ranger up there, so yesterday we weren’t surprised to find the summit more lightly wooded than the slopes below. The difference this time was that the oaks had shed their leaves, revealing wintertime-only views of the surrounding territory.
I pulled out my phone, launched a pano-photo app and took a 360° image. The result (above) shows what I’m talking about — and no, it’s not some unobstructed overlook. It’s simply the way this place is, the way it was left, the way a thousand-foot brow looks in this region.
To the south we could see the next ridge, rising more than 300 feet higher than where we stood. I walked down to Deb’s cousin’s tree stand, not far from where we’d parked the Ranger, and climbed halfway up the ladder for a different perspective.
That elevated perch gave me a look at the entire summit, a rough oval bounded by dense vegetation in every direction. The grade falling away from me gave the subtle impression of the Earth’s curvature as seen from altitude. Pretty damned cool.
A day removed from running the Ranger up The Mountain and through the woods, and prompted by that experience, I’ve had a chance to think about where I find myself at the end of an eventful 2021.
This year my American Life exceeded my imagination. I never thought I’d be living in a motorhome, traveling the country with The Great Love of My Life, but I am. I didn’t dare dream that I’d ever see Montana again — Flathead Lake, Glacier Park, the North Fork, Kintla Lake — but I did.
I never pictured myself in The Ozarks of northern Arkansas, and yet now I feel at home here. I always thought it’d be great to drive a Jeep or ride a quad, venturing into remote places, but those things never came within reach — and now all of them are in my grasp.
It’s been a year of crystalline moments, sights I’ll never forget, peace I’ve never known.
I didn’t predict any of that. All I did was get up every morning, stay open to each day’s possibilities and, most important, keep moving.
As I roll up on 65, apparently I’m not done. My best days aren’t all behind me. Good times are ahead.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.