Our Lady of the Blue Highways

Our Lady of the Blue Highways
Portrait in oils by Jackie Poutasse

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


We left Belt with the snow barely melted and drove in and out of  spattering rain for much of the way through Montana and into Wyoming, and ended up staying in a motel in Casper, Wyoming the first night.   In Casper, the mountains are so close, they appear to be just across the road – and the peaks still had heavy snow loads – which is not unusual this time of the year.

 In the morning, we took a “short cut” away from the highway toward Scotts Bluff and Fort Laramie.   Near Laramie, we stopped to check out the wagon wheel ruts from the thousands of wagons that transverse the Oregon Trail in the 19th century.   They were awesome!  Cut through soft sandstone they stand as mute testimony to the impact of the migration.   The Platte River had such a bad reputation for danger, that the travelers would rather struggle through the desolate landscape than attempt to ford the river.   I think I read once the description of the Platte as being a “mile wide and an inch deep”.  I didn’t see it that way til I was well into Nebraska –


Looking over the countryside from the Wheel Ruts -   and wondered what it felt like to be travelling with all the hardships they endured, and looking out and seeing nothing but endless prairie as far as the eye could see -  the trees ended here. 

I also stopped at “Register Cliff” where the pioneers carved names and dates into a sandstone cliff along the river. Of course, more recent “pioneers” have left their marks too!

 Can't see the signatures very well, but they are there!

Swallow nests on Register Cliff.

This cave was used as cold storage for foodstuffs.

A Pony Express Marker at the foot of Register Cliff.

Fort Laramie was quite a surprise.   I expected to see a small gathering of necessary buildings with a log wall surrounding it.   (Where would they get the logs in the middle of the prairie, Boots?)  - Well there were trees along the river, but this fort was spacious, - no walls – buildings mostly made of limestone blocks quarried a few miles west.   Some of the buildings were in ruins, some reconstructed – the barracks building was huge – the homes of the officers were large – and at first glance, I thought they were much more modern in age than the rest of the fort – but no – they were authentic to the time.  

Ruins of the hospital at Fort Laramie

The Bunkhouse

Fort Laramie stood as guard and supply station to those working their way west.   Surprisingly the Fort was only active for a very short time.   I enjoyed wandering around and looking at the different exhibits.  A Ranger stopped to talk with me and made it a point to tell me that the park was very pet friendly, and that Tucker was actually welcome inside the buildings – just pick him up and carry him in with me.   

 I intend to return by the same route so I can stop and spend more time in the Fort -  I had thought to go through the Black Hills, but that will be just before the 4th of July – don’t think I want to do that.   I realized at that point how much time I had spent wandering around and I still had to travel across most of Nebraska before getting to my campground for the night – so we hit the road.    (I had planned to stay in hotels on the way East – but since the weather was expected to be in the 80’s during the day and 50’s at night, I saw no reason not to camp – I had my little back pack tent with me for the return trip in June.

As the miles rolled by, spring started to show more and more -   In Montana and Wyoming it was still winter brown – in eastern Nebraska the grass started greening up, in Michigan the trees were starting to fill out and by the time I got to Maryland, it was full spring!!!


We stayed at a KOA (I like them when I’m straight-line travelling – I can put the address in the GPS and just “Sally Forth”!  


Tucker realizes that when the tent goes up, that’s where he will be sleeping, and never hesitates to hop inside and try it out! 
During the night, the wind picked up – or rather, it really started to blow!   Tucker dived under the covers and cuddled as close to me as he could get – probably remembering the blow-down in New Mexico.  Early, early the next morning, we were packed up and on the road again.   I say “early”, but realized I had crossed a time line somewhere so it was actually an hour later than I thought.  At some point during the day, we crossed the Mighty Mississippi – and it was in flood – for miles water creeped toward homes on each side of the highway.

 I had a choice of campgrounds that day -  KanKanKee, IL or South Bend, Indiana – oh, or Rock Island, IL -   Rock Island – seemed too soon to stop -   South Bend – well I wasn’t sure I could make it that far – it turned out to be an over 600 mile day of travelling.   I decided to head for the Kankankee site.   I think I should have held out for the South Bend site!!!!    I got off the highway and spent the next hour driving through farm land – you know the kind of area -  ½ mile down this road; 3 ½ miles on that road -   many without signs – I just had to depend on the GPS – and the land was flat, flat, flat – no high point to get a view of where I was headed.   The sun was sinking fast behind me, and I seemed to be getting nowhere. 

 I passed an interesting old barn – it’s siding was more “not” than “there” – you could see right through it, but it had a brand new shining metal sliding door on it! 

 I finally got to the campground as darkness was closing in – and the manager forgot to leave the information out for me as to which campsite was assigned to me -  so I just stopped at the first empty one and set up the tent – I didn’t even peg it down – I figured if my weight wouldn’t hold it down, the added 3# of Tucker’s weight would surely do it!

 Once again, we got up early, at about 5:20.  I showered and packed up and was on the road within an hour – headed to my grandson’s home in Michigan.    We pulled onto the main road (again this was farm country – “main” was no more than a narrow 2 lane road.   Remember the hour or so I spent wandering around the night before?   Well, barely a mile down the road there was a sign saying it was 1.9 miles to an interstate!!!!!

And as for getting up early?   Gained another hour somewhere along the way.    Within an hour or so, I was past the southern Chicago area and into the corner of Michigan.  I stopped at a rest stop/welcome center – sorry I can’t remember the name of it just now – but it was the very first traveler information center every built back in either 1925 or 1935 – can’t remember that either.

In any event, I arrived at Jesse’s home about noon where I picked up several boxes of Brooke’s stuff that didn’t fit on the truck when she went there to pick up her household goods.   I was to spend the night in Seven’s (great-grandson) room – I looked up those steep stairs, then out at the green grass in the back yard, and put up my tent again!

Well, actually, I didn’t put the tent up – Jesse did – or at least started – Brittany pitched in and finally Seven was called in for backup!!!



And, if anyone thinks tiny Tucker is no use to have as head of security – about 11 p.m. Jesse came out to say the lights were on in my truck (sure fire way to have dead batteries in the morning – been there, done that)   As soon as Jesse set foot in the back yard, Tucker set up such a fuss he probably woke household’s 6 lots away.  


In the morning, I said goodbye to Jesse and family and headed for a l-o-o-o-on-n-n-n-g day of travelling -   By the time I reached Nanjemoy – I had covered 688 miles – and only the last 2 hours were tiring –  by then it was dark and I had turned off the cruise control.  It was a very good day for travelling – my major problem was the GPS once I got into Virginia – it insisted I go through DC to get to Brooke’s -   In the dark, in Fredericksburg – I got lost.   Not for long, I finally thought to enter tiny King George on Hwy 301 as my destination – and, then, I got lost again – in King George???   It’s only one road for Pete’s sake!!!!   Actually, I thought I had over shot my destination, but I hadn’t gotten there yet – finally I got headed in the right direction and arrived at Brooke’s at about 10:30 p.m. -  she called minutes later, having just landed in DC after an unexpected trip to her Dad’s in Nevada.   She arrived at about 11:30.


The next couple of days was spent saying Hello to those I hadn’t seen for a year.   Then, Brooke had her knee surgery.  The damage turned out to be more extensive than expected so recovery may take a bit longer, also.   But, she is doing well now – she won’t be driving for another week or so – and by then she should be ok on her own – and I’ll make a trip down to Virginia Beach.


In the meantime, I’ve been going through all the stuff I left under her basement stairs – I’m about half way through it – have put some in the yard sale pile and some in the trash – getting there, though -   the next couple days, I’ll try to get through with my stuff so on Monday, Brooke can work her way downstairs and we can start going through her stuff – she is going to have quite a yard sale.


Mother’s Day has come and gone -   I went to the dinner at the farm (brought Brooke back quite a plate of goodies, including a 4# lobster)   It was surf and turf and a myriad of sides!


Brooke had roses sent to me – they are beautiful (and arrived on time)!   The roses sent for Brooke  arrived over a week late!   Never order flowers from “flowers for you”!!!!  They offered $5 off the next order -   they expect another order??? Got to be crazy.


Today, we’re going out for a bit – a church picnic – and I’m telling you this group knows how to put on a feed!, and since Powerball is up there a bit ($600,000,000) I think I’ll buy a ticket.


Well, obviously I didn’t win the big prize.  I’m still here, helping Brooke pack her house.  

Until next time,


Bear Hugs


Luv ‘n Boots & Tucker, Too


She knew she could do it and so she did!



Monday, June 3, 2013