Monday, July 19, 2010

Stranded in Montana… Swankie’s “stupid” week.

WARNING:  This is the blog post you couldn’t wait for… right!  Warning, it is very long.

Wenatchee, WA:  I arrived in Wenatchee, WA midday and called my son from Wal-Mart parking lot.  It was the hottest day of the year so far.  They were on their way out and wouldn’t be back until 8pm.  I should have asked if I could go to the house, and lay in the kiddy pool in the backyard, but I didn’t know they had one.  So, I waited in the parking lot until 7pm. The van got so hot I finally just went and sat on their porch and waited for my son and his family to get home.  They went swimming at a friends.  My son didn’t know I was coming because he never reads my SPOT notices.

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Zoey remembered me and gave me a hug. I gave her little gifts I had collected along the way. Will is three months old and attached to his mom... and cried each time I held him.  Maybe tomorrow will be better, maybe in a year or two.  They are both so cute I just want to eat them up.  I’d give almost anything if I could be with them every day.  I’d like to watch each new thing they learn or accomplish.  I want to be an abused and overused Grandma.  But, as some of my friends know… that can’t always happen.

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Look at the 3-month old baby trying to turn and look at the book Daddy is reading to Zoey.  Amazing, methinks.

I told my son I was spending $195 a year for my SPOT GPS device so he and his brother would know where I was all the time.  I guess they only made their plans for that afternoon, the previous night.  He said he no longer checks his email but once or twice a month since he stopped flying and started playing farmer/daddy, but he thinks what I am doing is great.

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So, I guess I can use his and Rich's slots on SPOT to let other people who want to track me... track me.

The day after I arrived, Chris had to go pick produce all morning.  His compressor froze up on him today and his trailer was not down at 40 degrees where it is suppose to be.  He is a little upset tonight about that. 

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He gave up being a commercial pilot to be a farmer (for Wenatchee Farmers’ Markets) and a stay-at-home-dad when not busy with his produce or at a market.  Little Zoey tries to help him.  I’m glad he is doing this for his kids, as it was something he didn’t have himself while growing up.  He is a very very good Dad.  Jenelle is a very good Mom.

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Hope to spend the morning just watching the babies, taking pictures and getting to know Zoey better.  “Will” will have to wait until the next trip when hopefully he will be more outgoing. If he turns out as good as Zoey, I'll have no complaints.  Zoey hugged me several times, and when she kissed everyone goodnight, she gently leaned over and kissed little Will on the forehead. 

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Will and Zoey have very very good parents.  Spankie, my van monkey, has retired to live with them.  Spankie… beware of the cat and Otis.

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I pushed off  after spending time with them and head toward WY.  Better drive in the heat then sit and smelter.  Did you ever see anything so cute?

Hoped to see another friend in Spokane, but that didn’t work out so I kept driving.

Spent one night on the mountains in ID.  Nice to get to cooler temps.  Next day I took a long nap at Lookout Pass.  Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area is in/near Wallace, ID.

Drive to WA - MT:

Saw a craft fair and pulled off the road at Old Mission State Park:


“The oldest standing building in all of Idaho is found here, in the Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park. The Mission of the Sacred Heart or Sacred Heart Mission was constructed between 1850 and 1853 by Catholic missionaries and members of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Sacred Heart Mission and the Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park provide an educational experience not found anywhere else, giving visitors an opportunity to examine the dynamics and complexities between Jesuit missionaries and the tribal people among whom they settled. The park features the Sacred Heart Mission building, a restored Parish House and an historic cemetery. The visitor center includes an interpretive exhibit about the Mission and the Coeur d'Alene Indians. A walking audio tour tape is available.” From their website.

A couple of craft fair photos:

missoula_01 089 This is the most interesting spinning wheel I had ever seen… built into a table… and so you have the table top to rest things on.  Amazing.

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Katie… I heard you mention Tatting once… so I take these photos for you.

missoula_01 094 missoula_01 095 Steve you might find these interesting.  Slabs of rock with a hole cut in them, into which a wick is placed.  A jar for fuel is glued to the bottom of the rock.  I’m thinking an adapted approach to this might work for your rock/candle???

Found this wonderful little spot to kayak…   at Old Mission Landing at Old Mission State Park, Cataldo, ID.  It is right off I-90.   Easy access.  Boy did I want to kayak.  Saw only two people (50-60 age bracket)… who had just returned from Kayaking.  Said it was beautiful.

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Missoula, MT.

In Missoula MT I found Currents Aquatics Center located in McCormick Park, 600 Cregg Lane (Map). Contact  (406) 552-6257 or (406) 721-PARK (7275). I can get a free weeklong pass to use the facilities.  The facility is wonderful.  There is a fishing lake for children, a ropes course, ball fields, open grassy areas, and the swim center (which is totally geared for kids)… with tall swirling water slides, etc.

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The kids fishing lake and the Aquatic Center.

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The ropes course.  Cool.

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View from entrance.. love the mountains.

I went in this morning and told them I was visiting and thinking of living here and saw on the  website that you could get a free week pass to try out the facility. I got the pass. It is a short pool if you are a swimmer, but great showers and a neat looking hot tub. Soon... I’m going inside.

My recovering shoulder is screaming for heat... and I think the hot tub and hot shower sounds so much nicer especially for FREE.  And I will enjoy trying to swim again... see what the arm is up to.

A fellow vandweller wrote:

You know, Charlene, you made a point that never occurred to me.  I became very independent out of necessity and as a result my kids have too.  And I wasn't one of those "empty nesters" who hated to see them move out when the time came.  I was happy to see them on their own and happy to finally have only myself to worry about.  Selfish?  Maybe.  But having married at 17 and having my first child at barely 18 it was great to finally be in that position.  I just never thought my kids would so totally become detached from me.  Thanks for offering to introduce me to kayaking.  I've seen in the paper that there are several opportunities around here to try it out and I may be doing that.  Looking forward to meeting you and lots of others on the road one day.  Thanks for writing back.

(name not shown)

My response:

Dear (name not shown),

I hope we will meet one day too.  I'm sorry that you are going through similar heartbreak about your kids.  I don't know, maybe as single parents we taught them too much independence.  Whatever it is... we deserve better.  I am doing what I'm doing out of spite and because I don't want to sit around allowing them to depress me even more.  I thought I was done "grandma-ing" too when my son popped these two babies on me.  Now I toy with the idea of returning in a couple years and trying to play grandma again... but might just be in for more heartbreak.

If you want to hang with me... just find me.  Even with the shoulder not healed yet, I had no trouble kayaking.  I think you could do it gently... and enjoy it.  I could go out with you... you could rent one a few times to try it out.

It's not a pity party, it's just a sad statement of facts.  I think you sounded very upbeat.  We do deserve our lives.
After all, they are living theirs' aren't they?
Regards, Charlene

So, then I had the air pressure checked on my tires and learned one was too bad to continue driving.  I only had $300 left to my name.  Stranded in MT with no "new tire money." I'm too low on $ to spend anything on anything until 7/21. If I can decide on one to buy now to get me on down the road... I would do that and buy a second one in August.  And begin a savings account for tire money (or for my 49th and 50th states).

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Was so frustrated and felt so trapped, I just drove out of town a ways looking for some cool air, privacy and wilderness.  Found it on a little road going up to Garnet Ghost Town and Back Country Byway.  I couldn’t go more than about 3 miles up pulling the trailer and found a place to turn around and pull over for the night.  I want to return here and go all the way up to Garnet Pass… without the trailer in tow.  No overnight camping there, but I parked along the road about 2.5 miles up… and was not disturbed all night.  I was amazed at how quiet it was up there.  At the bottom of the road is a large parking area also and I think Vandwellers could get by there.

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After a break to clear my mind I returned to Missoula to resolve the issues… of tires, shoulder, eyes, money, etc.  I returned things to Wal-Mart that I wasn’t pleased with.  I returned case lots of food I had not opened.  I sent in a rebate on my new air card.  I returned the Buff I had ordered which I did not like as well as the one Katie had in Pahrump, NV this spring.  I returned the ink cartridges I just bought, and then learned my printer was no longer working (oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that… I put in a new cartridge, and the printer said “The printer’s ink pads have reached the end of their service life… turn off your printer.”  I called Epson, and was told they would send a new one out in 10 days.  God, I don’t want to stay her ten more days… so I asked if they would ship it to friends in Minnesota.  They said they would.  I may or may not have to ship this one back to him.  I called Escapees to have my mail also forwarded to Minnesota also.  Well, now I don’t know what else to do but wait… and I can’t even finish the projects that require my printer.

AAA came to the Aquatic Center to take the bad tire off.  And the guy was a doo-doo bird.  He didn’t know if he had a jack on his truck, he didn’t know if he had air on his truck, and then he went to put the lug-nut cover back on without tightening down the lug nuts.  I had to stop him… boy that day really wore me out.

The spare is a new full sized tire, how lucky can I get.  Not a lot of air in it but I'll get to a gas station after I shower and soak in a hot tub for a while.  Don't know yet if I'll go on to WY or try to resolve more of these issues while I’m here.  I now believe the damage was done while that tire was on the front end (recently -in Pahrump, NV in April- had them rotated to rear) and might only need a front-end alignment.  I do need two new tires at least, but no longer think the rear axle or the trailer tongue is the problem.  It will be good to rest a couple days now without worrying about the bad tire. 

But maybe hanging out here will be a good thing if I can fix some health issues:  the eye I had surgery and one is infected... got meds ... and it got a little better but a couple days later, they were both worse. 


Went to the NOW CARE clinic on Sundays 7/18 and saw Dr. Steven J. Thompson, D.O.  Took me off the drops I was on and gave me a new script (great…have to spend more money).

The shoulder I had surgery on 2 months ago is driving me nuts all the way down to my fingertips.  CA doctor wants me to see MT doctor and there is an ortho urgent care clinic I can be seen at.  I hope they will give me a couple Physical Therapy sessions so I can know for sure I'm doing the right PT.  And now I seem to be getting the sinuses mad again... they hate cities and pollution(number one reason I want to get out of town).

Will spend most of today outside the van...  do laundry, etc.  Do shoulder (I hope).  Take a bike ride... great trails here along the Clark Fork River.  Have another hot tub soak and shower.  And park someplace tonight where a guy is not going to pull up beside me at 3am with his radio blaring... his truck door open so he can hear the blaring, while he puts traffic barriers up right next to my van... and all around the area for some lane-painting stripes happening in the Sears parking lot.  I started to drive away... and he said I was o.k. go in and get my tire in the morning and then move... and apologized for waking me up and turned off the radio... like a lot of good that did me... go back to sleep... HA!   So that gave me about three hrs sleep that night... and probably won't manage all I listed below, because as soon as I get sleepy today... I'm a sleeping.

I wrote an email exchange with my old lawyer who handled the van accident:

Me: It's odd how something terrible happens to you... and you feel like it's the end of the world... then suddenly you see some light at the end of the tunnel.  I feel like the "accident" gave me this second chance to live.  How strange is that? 

Lawyer replies: Hoorah for you!  So glad to hear you’re doing well. A better word than strange is “courage” for the way you came out of a very difficult emotional and physical circumstance. Not many people would have.

Me: Never say die... you gotta keep on fighting.  1/4 of my high school classmates are deceased.  People younger then me look older than me.  I can't say I'm 100% over the accident, I still jump when other drivers do stupid things, and I can't stand tailgaters... I won't let anyone near the rear of my van.  No ONE!  But I can say, without your help, this new lease on life would not have been possible.

Me: I'm still doing pretty well although I had to have a second surgery on my right shoulder... and it's been two months now.  It's not healing very fast this time.  I'm in MT heading to WY to kayak there.  I've done eight states now.  Planned to send you a photo postcard, but my printer died.
Hope things are well with you and the firm.  Oh Dan, I forgot to tell you, I got a grandson on April 2, 2010... spitting image of his grandpa who died Dec. 31, 2009.  Sad he never go to see our precious grandson.  Two granddaughters(18 and 2) and now a fantastic little boy (who wont' let grandma hold him-pout).  Check my blog link below for his photos.

Lawyer: Thanks for the update.  I’m so busy this summer I’ll have to have my vacation vicariously through your kayak trip.  Congratulations on new life in the family!

One Good Lawyer:  Daniel Kilpatrik

Davidson- Czeisler- & Kilpatrick PS
520 Kirkland Way Suite 400
Kirkland, WA  98019


Here are some of the things that happened in Missoula:

... ran out of $ in MT due to poor planning and bad tires...

... left side door open while driving (my front bike wheel and new floor mat that were on the side step... didn't fall out!)

... dinted the front left corner of my trailer while backing up

A guy helping me back out of a Laundromat parking lot... did not stop me when I began to jack-knife and I just dented the front right corner of my trailer and rear right corner of van.  I have not looked yet to see if my bike got damage.  I had a bad feeling about parking where I did.. and should have listen to the little voice in my head.  Arghhhhhhh! :(

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... got an eye infection – no EYE infections.  Nothing is working so far.  Eyes are sensitive and I’m staying out of the bright light and sunshine.

… my printer died.

OK, so I've gone with ONE Dunlop tire ($127) for now... and got that, the rotation, the alignment at Sears for $225 total.  (The first quote I got on my exact tire on the van now was $225.) I just needed the peace of mind.  The front left was bad... alignment.  And both front tires were toed in too far.  I feel safe now... and can leave when I am ready... but might still wait til I get money 7/21. Oh and that exact tire was selling at the PX for  $180.00.  Think I'll wait a little while before I replace the other tires.  And save $ in prep.

I finally managed to be seen by an Ortho doctor, who x-rayed my arm... tested me, called my CA doctor, has given me a script for the pain med... and arranged for me to have 2 physical therapy sessions per week for the next 6 weeks. The day wore me out and I was ready for that hot tub soak and a good nights sleep.

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Also... for a long time I coveted Bob Wells United States map on his camper door... and finally got one at Camping World (before leaving WA)... and at last got it mounted while being stranded in Missoula. It's so way cool. 

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Lots of lessons to be learned... and one in particular that will serve me well is Kathleen's suggestion to use a notebook... you start a page with the money you have... and then just subtract each expenditure... so you can always glance down at that page... and see what you have to work with (instead of blindly plodding along using your bank card). That's gonna work for me.

0719101752 Looks worse in person.

Sunday, 7/18:  RECAP.

Well, I've $101 left and 3 days til payday. Being stranded in Missoula has some benefits... like taking time to see the doctor about my eyes. Getting a chance to see a physical therapist about my shoulder (funny thing, once I had an appointment set up for PT, the shoulder began getting better?).

Got some projects finished, like getting my U.S. Map mounted and photographed. My gas tank is almost on empty but I'm sitting in the parking lot at Costco... and will buy $20 in a little bit. That should get me to Weds. if I don't do a lot of driving.

I'm going to use Kathleen's method for managing my money better. Here's my plan.

1) as soon as my pay is in the bank... transfer $100.00 to savings... not to be touched unless for a new tire, airline ticket to Alaska or Hawaii, etc.

2) deduct the things that are set up for EFT for monthly or annual payments.

3) write down on a table or notebook to be kept at hand in the front seat to record/and subtract each and every debit draft I make... so that I will always know how much is available at any one time.

When my balance gets too low... find a place to camp/kayak until the next payday.

Let's see how well this works. (cross your fingers for me)  I say this was my “stupid week” for not being aware of the condition of my tires, not having a $ reserve for such emergencies, not taking care of my eyes, and almost loosing my bike tire and new van floor mat out the side door of my van, because I didn’t shut it.  Forever learning.  Pray for “smarter” weeks to come for me, won’t you?

Monday 7/19: two more days until payday.

Next post will be made on-the-road to Wyoming.


  1. thanks for the pics, charlene! i wish i had learned to tat while my aunt was still alive...i may learn yet. looks like it was a nice craft fair!

  2. Hobo... it's never too late. That's why I photographed the book for you. Maybe you can order one.


Who is Swankie?

My photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
Visit me on In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles in Spring 2017. In training now for the hike.