TRAVELS WITH NICHOLAS
Travels with Nicholas - Part 1
Date: Saturday, October 2, 2004 11:18:49 -0700 (PDT)
To: Friends & Family
Subject: Travels with Nicholas - Part 1
Hello my friends and family,
Let me continue; rock hit driver's side of windshield resulting in a stunning starburst for a while until it evolved into a wonderful spiderweb slicing down my windshield. Alternator fan-belt snapped causing me to lose all charge forcing me to coast into abandoned gas station - no less. I am having so much fun. Wish you were here.
By the way, did I mention that I am not even out of California yet; and that I am only into the second day into my trip? God help me. That Winnebago Chieftain that I always wanted is sounding pretty good right now.
Well anyway I found this Starbucks in little ole Lake Tahoe (not a bad place to be broke down (and going broke to boot), to sit and send you this update. Preparing to walk to auto parts store to get that pesky fan-belt. Should have it on and be up and running in a couple of hours. Am preparing to mosey across Nevada on Highway 50 dubbed 'America's Loneliest Road'. I am hedging my bets and am assuming that all that can go wrong has gone wrong and that I will be snug as a bug in my GMC rug.......sure....right.
Will let you know how I fare.
P.S. May the GMC gods have pity on my soul.
End Part 1
Travels with Nicholas - Part 2
Date: Monday, October 4, 2004 22:36:35 -0700 (PDT)
To: Friends & Family
Subject: Travels with Nicholas - Part 2
Made it through Nevada and Utah. Am writing this from Grand Junction Colorado. Had zero problems in Nevada....fortunately. Was a beautiful desolate ride. Middle of nowhere type of scenery. Will post pictures to the GMC website. Will send the link in a future e-mail.
Crossed Utah today. Wow! Eastern Utah is wonderful. Have some remarkable pictures of the scenery that will also be included in a future link. Shredded another fan belt today. Spent an hour and a half on side of road. Gosh those trucks really make the motorhome rock when they whiz by. Called Big Al. Told him the alternator bearing was making a whining sound (the one he just replaced) and was shredding belts. He gave me the number for the Delco Hotline. They told me the next town I get in, Delco will replace the alternator including any labor. So will scout around tomorrow a.m. for a Delco supplier. Hopefully that will be the last of my woes.
Should be at the folks' house in Evergreen, CO Tuesday. Will be there almost a week. Won't burdened you with these e-mails while I am there.
Yep, such is the life. Having fun. Wish you were here.
End Part 2
Travels with Nicholas - Part 3
Date: Mon, 18 Oct 2004 20:20:25 -0700 (PDT)
To: Friends & Family
Subject: Travels with Nicholas - Part 3
Hello Friends and Family,
Well I spent an enjoyable week with my father and mother in Colorado. Was way up in the mountains and didn't get wireless laptop service, which you may be grateful for as I was unable to send any e-mails. I picked up my Casitas travel trailer which I purchased from my father last year. I wanted it to have it painted the same colors as my coach, as the lines on the Casitas are very similar to my coach and it is also made out of fiberglass. My old man was kind enough to paint it for me, although I did all of the sanding and prep work. Took us about four laborious days. I have attached a couple of pictures of my new rig for your viewing pleasure.
I am now in Missouri visiting my relatives. I should be here for a couple of days before hitting the road again. I will be heading to Illinois to see my birthplace before turning north to Chicago and Route 90 heading west through the Badlands and ultimately Yellowstone.
I resolved my problems with my alternator. I was fitted with the wrong one at Big Al's, thus all the problems. Got a new 100 amp alternator in Denver and the coach is running as smooth as silk.
Take care all. Will update you soon.
End Part 3
Travels with Nicholas - Part 4
Date: Wednesday, October 20, 2004 12:03:20 -0700 (PDT)
To: Friends & Family
Subject: Travels with Nicholas - Part 4
Howdy friends and family,
As promised (not again you groan) here is an update on my meanderings. Yesterday was spent visiting the birth sites of famous people. I started out with Mark Twain's birthplace in Hannibal, Missouri. Very interesting. Later in the day, I visited the home of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Missouri. Very moving. I then moved on to the most famous of all, that of Nicholas Bowen born on Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. Very interesting indeed. I pulled up at the guard house at the base and was met by one of the guards. The conversation went something like this.
"Please state your purpose sir!," demanded the guard. "Why I am here to see the birth site of me....Nicholas Bowen", I cheerily replied. "May I see some identification?" again demanded the guard. "You bet sir. Here's my ID," I again cheerily replied. He looked at my ID for a second then said "Sorry you cannot enter the base!" "Why?", I queried. "Could be some sort of forgery." he responded, "a lot of people are claiming to be Nicholas Bowen these days." You mean other people are using fake ID to try to get on the base to see my birthplace besides me?" I asked incredulously. "You'd be surprised" he replied. "You mean I can just waltz up to Mark and Abe's birth sites (us folks born here in the Midwest tend to use first names loosely) and see them without a problem but I can't get in to see my own?" "Well, yes that is about the size of it" he responded, "they are not quite as famous." I could sense he really wanted to reach out and shake my hand in the event I really was the one and only Nicholas Bowen whose birthplace he was protecting, but he showed restraint only a military guard would show. "Now please turn that rig around and get off this base," he commanded, "you are blocking traffic." With that I turned my motorhome around and headed off the base, somewhat dejected that I traveled all that way and couldn't see my birthplace, but at the same time quite elated of my importance over old Mark and Abe. Wow what a day!
Future updates to come,
Your traveling bud,
P.S. In the event that I had you totally fooled...yeah sure..... the aforementioned conversation was conjured up while passing the miles (except for "Now please turn that rig around and get off of this base") for my own amusement....and yours... and I'm sure masks some of the disappointment I felt for not being able to visit my birthplace. But in the aftermath of 9-11 (and tight restrictions on military bases and with M-16 armed guards) the very least I could do was cheerfully comply. I am now on my way to South Dakota and the Black Hills. Hopefully I can get in there!
End Part 4
Travels with Nicholas - Part 5
Date: Monday, October 25, 2004 22:01:18 -0700 (PDT)
To: Friends & Family
Subject: Travels with Nicholas - Part 5
Well howdy good folks,
Last e-mail I sent I had just tried a failed attempt to visit my birthplace in Illinois. From there I headed north to Chicago then on through Wisconsin and Minnesota. Was so overcast that I couldn't see anything more than a few hundred yards from the road. This went on for days. Therefore my report on those two states are what? and where?. Then went on into South Dakota which was very highwayt tourist oriented. Kind of neat to see all of the roadside "worlds largest this" and "Indian moccasins" that, signs. Reminded me of America back in the '50s, although I wouldn't know. being a love child of the '70's. Read about it in history books though.
Anyway on to Wyoming I went. I decided to visit Mount Rushmore where I came face to faces withh the Presidents' busts. I realized that they were up there because they had achieved some sort of fame. In fact I saw there was still room even for another famous figure to be added. I saw my Illinois buddy, ole Abe looking down at me. I almost thought he was winking at me. Did he know something I didn't know? You know what they say about famous busts on mountain tops don't you? Apparently they have some sort of magical premonitional abilities. I thought back on my experience with not being able to get in to my birthplace (actually it really was because of my fame and notoriety; I was just trying to be modest by blaming it on 9-11). In any event I then decided to take a picture of the Presidents, however, when I saw the picture I was stunned. You know how sometimes pictures can be taken and funny occurences happen to the film? Like ghostly figures or premonitions of something to come? That's what happened to my picture. Weird I tell you. I wasn't sure if I should share the picture with you but I figured I should in the event it ever comes true you won't be taken by surprise. I'm serious now.
Well I am on the road again. Am going to head on up north to Montana and thereabouts. Will report on any happenings or any other phenomenon up that way.
Nicholas, your traveling bud
End Part 5
Travels with Nicholas - Part 6
Date: Tuesday, October 26, 2004 08:02:21 -0700 (PDT)
To: Friends & Family
Subject: Travels with Nicholas - Part 6
I know, I know. Just when you thought you were going to hear the last from me, you get another e-mail. I save these up you know, sometimes for days because I don't always get internet service to send them out. I know, you are secretly wishing I never got Internet service. Have to hear about my woes and all.
Well as you know by now my motorhome has not been running too well. Just had another malfunction. This time with the transmission. Wouldn't shift out of first. Thanks to my good buddy Jim 'Can of Tomatoes', he walked me through a solution, all over the phone. Jim is a top notch mechanic. I could kiss him. Well I could have. See I was so elated that we got my problem fixed I was blubbering like a baby.... I was so happy. I could tell was happy too. He told me just call him anytime I have a problem, just don't call him for phone sex. Suddenly my elation turned to deflation. You see, I am into one stop shopping when it comes to my mechanic. This totally sheds a new light on our relationship. I may not use him again as I have another mechanic (no where as good as Jim though) but who includes phone sex in his list of duties. You know...the standard fare......engine rebuilds, tune ups, phone sex, brake jobs, transmission repair. Ah such are the trials and tribulations in life.
Following this debacle, and even though I got this last problem fixed, I have to admit I was pretty fed up with my motorhome. A love affair gone awry. Anyway, I was travelling through this small town, and spied a motorhome that I immediately fell in love with. It is Some Other Brand. I stopped and pretended that I was interested in some other not as nice motorhome and slyly let the salesman lead me to the one I really was interested in. Boy was I savoire faire. I think that means 'really smooth' in Greek or Tagonese. Anyway by the time I was done with that salesman, I managed to trade my motorhome straight across. Didn't have to pay a dime extra. I even got my kiss with it (the one I couldn't get from Jim). Anyway, I am back on the road. And loving life. I have attached a picture of my new baby. Thought you might enjoy. And to all of my GMC motorhome club buddies, please don't hate me. Please still love me. I love you. See you at the Lodi rally!
Nicholas, the traveler.
P.S. Yes there is a God. These e-mails will end soon.
End Part 6
Travels with Nicholas - Part 7
Date: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 07:44:04 -0700 (PDT)
To: Friends & Family
Subject: Travels with Nicholas - Part 7
Please don't think ill will of me for being so wishy washy, but I'm on the road again, this time back in my trusty GMC motorhome. Yeah, I got it back. Never made it out of town in the new coach I traded for. As a matter of fact I never even made it off of the lot. Don't get me wrong, it ran like a top. Did 80 on the freeway without going into overdrive. Nope, it was the paint job. They told me it was painted some sort of antique brown. Didn't mind the brown but it didn't match my blue eyes. When I asked if I could have it repainted blue, they gave me a bucket and a mop. It just started dawning on me about then, that maybe, just maybe, I was being hoodwinked. At that point I seamlessly melted into a negotiating frame of mind. I went from negotiatee to negotiator. A time honored skill that I have artfully crafted with cunning and masterful persuasion. I deftly turned my charm on and soon had him eating out of my hands. Well actually that would be drinking, as I had to buy him a cup of coffee because he wouldn't take his kiss back. And oh yeah.....I had to shine his shoes. In short order though, I had my old GMC motorhome back. See, what did I tell you? The art of cunning begging and persuasive pleading. Must run in the jeans. Oh, and by the way, never trust a car lot that says "Big Al's" "We guarantee your car gets off the lot or we will help push it off!" Gosh I suppose one should read the fine print before doing business with one.
End Part 7
Travels with Nicholas - Part 8
Date: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 23:40:54 -0700 (PDT)
To: Friends & Family
Subject: Travels with Nicholas - Part 8
I know that by now you realize that I have written my e-mails mostly with a tongue-in-cheek approach. That has been to add a little color to an otherwise unspectacular trip. However there is one rather serious episode of my trip that I would like to share with you.
I pulled into Cody, Wyoming only to find the flashing signs on the outskirts of town informing me that the entrance to Yellowstone Park 50 miles ahead, which was where I planned on going, was closed due to snow. I then decided that I would go to the Little Bighorn Battlefield up in Montana, which meant I had to either leave Cody the way I arrived or head north on an alternate route. I selected the alternate route as I didn't want to cover ground I had already been on. Of course this hasty change in plans meant that I did not study the route on the map very carefully. It was seven o'clock in the evening and I thought I could cover the 80 miles to the Bighorn in short order. Soon after leaving Cody I saw a sign that said "Steep Grades 20 Miles". I think God decided to momentarily take away any little common sense that I might have possessed which would have told me to stop for the evening and proceed in daylight.
I continued on and sure enough, in twenty miles I hit some steep slopes. As a matter of fact, they were steeper than any I have ever seen. Any motorhomer will tell you that a six percent grade is steep, and eight percent very steep, but ten percent is sure to be trouble. My coach groaned up the hill in first gear. Suddenly rain drops started pelting my windshield. Good grief, this is all I needed. In the dark and rain I kept going, sure the top had to be at hand. Then suddenly the rain drops turned into soft splashes of snow hitting my windshield. I knew I was in trouble. Since there were no turnarounds and if I took my foot off of the gas for one second I knew I would lose any forward momentum and engine revolutions, so I kept going, hunched forward with the brim of my ball cap hitting the sun visor and with my butt cheeks clenching the seat in sheer terror. After what seemed like an eternity creeping along at three miles an hour, I finally made it to the top of the mountain. What a relief it was to have gotten to the top of that mountain. I was overwhelmed with happiness. I pulled over into a turnout at the summit and jumped of the motorhome and shouted "I own this mountain" in sheer elation. I was so excited I even took a leak in the fresh snow. I showed that mountain what for.
I got back into my motorhome and started on. In spite of the snow I felt I could slowly get down the other side. I started down, and then up another little rise and then down again, as on a ridge of a hill, when suddenly my jubilation turned to sheer panic when I realized that the road was starting to steeply climb again. Now you have to understand that I was in a snow fog and couldn't see beyond fifty yards, so I had no visual perception of the terrain. What I was also unaware of was that there were two peaks to this mountain, and I had only just reached the peakof Bald mountain, elevaation 10,042 feet, and had yet to scale Hunt mountain with an elevation of 10,162 feet. Now one might think that the difference in elevations of 120 feet is not that much, but to climb it in a vehicle means at the minimum two to three miles by road. Any consternation I had climbing the last peak was magnified ten fold. The snow was coming down much harder and there were no cars but me on the road. I kept talking to Rocket, that's the name of my coach, coaxing him along, assuring him that he could climb this hill. But suddently the inevitable happened, I started losing traction. I inched to the side of the road and ground to a halt. I was in a fix...big time.... and I knew it.
All I knew was that I was on this mountain all alone in a blinding snowstorm on a ten percent grade. I hastily jumped out and started putting anything I had to act as blocks behind the tires. Two hydraulic jacks, a large pipe wrench, a large propane tank fitting that carried with me, and the spare tire out of the trailer. I then placed my safety reflective triangles in the road and two battery operated emergency flashers that my folks had just given me as a gift. I climbed into my darkened motorhome. I dared not turn any lights on so that I could conserve my battery to operate my furnace....and God bless that furnace. It was my salvation. Twice, believing that the motorhome was sliding backwards down the hill, I panicked and jumped out of the motorhome door out into the blinding snow. I had to convince myself that I was suffering from vertigo which was causing weird sensations in my mind, due to a lack of orientation because of the steepness of the slope and the darkness that I had enveloped myself in. I laid down on my couch with my head up towards the driver's seat because of the steepness of the slope. I dozed off and was awakened after about half an hour by wind and sleet hitting the motorhome. I started to become alarmed thinking that possibly I drove into the front of a big storm which was going to snow me in for days or maybe weeks. This was a devastating thought. I started thinking about my heat supply which wouldn't last more than a week, and my food. What was I going to do after my food ran out? The prospect of eating myself to stay alive did not sound too appealing. I won't deny that I was frightened. So frightened that I prayed to God to help me, and put my deceased mothers crucifix neclace on and held on to her hairbrush which helped comfort me. As odd as this might sound, I could actually feel my mothers arms around me in a warm embrace, which allowed me to finally drift off to sleep.
I awoke to the sound of the Angel which God sent down to help me. His wings were making an odd sound. Kind of mechanical it sounded like to me. I peered out and saw this scruffy looking Angel dude. He had a ball cap pulled low over his eyes, and had a beard and wore a coat that seemed two sizes two large. And he was driving a snow plow of all things! Knowing the predicament I was in, and without saying a word he backed his orange snow plow up to the front of my motorhome and hooked up a large tow strap. Then slowly off we went. He pulled me to the top of Hunt mountain which was about a half a mile up. At the top he unhooked me and I jumped out and thanked him profusely. "God bless you I said" as he was walking off. He turned around and winked at me and jumped in his plow and disappeared into the fog. And I was back on the road.
End Part 9
Travels with Nicholas - Part 9
Date: Sunday, October 31, 2004 22:25:09 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Travels with Nicholas - Part 9 - Finis
Looks like there is a God after all. See? This is my last e-mail to you....as promised. I have made a safe return home after spending a month on the road. For that I am grateful.
I started my trip in search of my roots and maybe hopefully to discover something about my self. You want to know what I found out? I found that my roots, although originating as a seedling somewhere in particular, are never ending. I found that new roots are laid everyday, every time I interact with someone, or every time I foray into a new area. They are just newer roots than the older roots of yesteryear, soon to be older roots themselves. I found that by searching for my roots, I was really only laying newer roots, and so on and so forth. By understanding this and accepting it, I have come to realize that wherever I am at is merely a compilation of all of my roots. To understand who I am or where I am from, I need only to look within.
As far as finding out something about myself, I found that no matter what was thrown my way, it was my responsibility to address the issue and figure out an optimum solution. There was no excuse for failure. And to this end, I seemed to manage. For better or for worse. This is no different than all of the day-to-day obstacles that are presented to us on a daily basis that we are required to overcome. Just different situations. For that I feel like I have found a part of me that I like, even more so than before my trip.
I also figured that seeing majestic mountains and cool rivers and endless fields of grain would give me purpose that I was seeking. I thought that meeting a variety of peoples and overcoming any challenges thrown my way would help strengthen my character and strengthen my resolve. And you know, all of this is true. And it did. It was a magnificent experience. But you know what I really discovered on my trip? That truly home truly is really where your heart is. Home is loving and being loved by friends and family. Home is knowing that in spite of all the trials that we endure on a daily basis, that we are where we need to be. That the pastures on the other side are not greener, or the good old days were not better than freely accepting and loving life today. Without sounding too esoteric (sappy might be a better word), I discovered that I am ok, and that I am happy being here now. I am grateful for this understanding. I also realize that I have friends and family, that help ground me with my existence, and want to thank you for being one of those grounding figures, and for allowing me the privilege of sharing my experiences with you. Thank you. Take care. God bless.
The Traveler, Formerly in Search of His Roots and His Self