Analogy of Pioneer Settlers (a weary addendum to Chasing Apollo)

  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jim and I can't figure out why we are so tired. We know it can't be because we are both almost seventy years old, arthritic and out of shape, used to city living in relative luxury, and on an entirely foreign schedule in an entirely foreign land and climate. But after four weeks, we have to admit that we are saddle sore, just like cowboys; still in love, having a great, time, but just travel weary. herefore, we have figured out the cause of our fatigue is that we are leading the difficult lifestyle of American pioneer settlers. Our reasoning goes something like this.

Like pioneer settlers, we get up with the sun (7:24 a.m. this morning), and we crawl achingly into our bedrolls (a Temperpedic Memory Foam mattress) shortly after sunset (8:01 p.m. tonight), sleeping lightly because we watch for marauding banditos and dangerous wildlife (deer, coons, possums, armadillos, rabbits, etc.) which we assault with our closely held six guns (our flashlights shined out the picture window in the bedroom). In the morning, after a pot of coffee, we break camp (water and electric hoses unhooked and stored, awning down, slide in, storage compartments locked); hook up the oxen team (check brake lights, turn signals, mirrors, lock step and doors, turn on GPS); and slowly move out. We travel slow and rough(sic) all day (58-60 mph on 75-80 mph highways IS slow, and we are bumped by potholes, pushed by speeding trucks, and, of course, “Moriah” always blows, hot and steady). At the end of a long day bouncing along in the wagon (an air-conditioned coach) we scout for the perfect camp site for the night(drive through the park for best available site and check-in) and do the reverse of the morning's chores: back in the wagon, unhook the oxen (hoses, slide, awning, rug and chairs), gather firewood (most often bought at check-in), curry and saddle up the horses (walk and brush the dogs and get out the bikes). We pack our saddle bags with hardtack and jerky (water, bug spray, sun tan lotion, a protein bar, and fishing gear) and ride the range (bicycles)to find hunting grounds (river for fishing). Jim busily fishes for supper (…or not) while I take pictures and scout the countryside for game (with binoculars) and gather side dishes like blackberries and pecans (thank God for that slave at the plantation in Louisiana , I forget which one, who developed “paper-shell” pecans, which are hard enough to crack and pick without the proper tools). We build our fire, then cook a meal over it (on the grill) for which Jim is ravenous and I'm too tired to eat. Then we have to put up the horses (walk the dogs and lift the bikes back on the rack, pack up to leave tomorrow).

Trying to stay awake until dark, we build a campfire to sit around, chew tobac and smoke (roast marshmallows, in our case), sing songs (“Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Call the Wind Moriah,” “Home On the Range” are some of the titles on our Texas CD that we turn on to listen to because we're too tired to sing), and stare at the tree line for critters. Does seeing a countless number of deer grazing through our Llano River campsite at dawn and dusk make it worthwhile? Well, I'd never seen a herd of cattle that big much less deer, both axis and whitetail, so it was special and exciting at the moment. But we have to do it again tomorrow: up at dawn, break camp, harness the team, ride the vast, unpeopled range to find and set up another camp, hunt and gather food, move on. On top of that, these two lifelong beach bunnies had to cross the 8000 feet above sea level Gila National Forest in the Black Mt. Range on NM Road 152: the Geronimo Spirits of the Mountains Trail which is nothing but 53 miles of hairpin turns and no railing... white knuckle driving which, along with the dust-filled winds of the Chihuahuan desert have done us in. The wild west is too wild for us, too arid, too tough. Now, doesn't our 2014 Odyssey sound similar to the 1800 pioneer settlers? Sure, we have running water and electricity, indoor plumbing and hot showers each day, grocery stores, and a comfy mattress in a dry and air-conditioned coach, but I would not be truthful if I painted a 24-7 representation of a fairytale. We have some down times, but I'll try not to be too negative about them. You ask, why are we doing this odyssey? …the adventure? …the education? …the stimulation? …back to nature? I guess the answer is the same as you hear from astronauts, mountain climbers, solo oceanic crossers by plane and water…because it's there, and because we can! And we thank God every morning when we pull out and every evening when we pull in for the opportunity! There are some experiences in life that words cannot describe and pictures cannot paint.

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