Some of the best travel stories we have involve our road trips with Sugar and Bob in the RV. They got to be so popular that our friends and relatives would make a point of knowing when we were returning so they could call and get the details of our latest escapades. Each year, usually in the Fall, we would plan anything from a two-week to a six-week vacation that could take us anywhere from the Maritime Provinces of Canada to the beaches of Florida or the Canyons of Utah. We've camped in major cities such as Las Vegas and New Orleans (yes, they do have RV sites right on the Strip and in the French Quarter) to the near deafening silence of places like Capital Reef. As happens, times and circumstances change, so this will be the first year in over a decade that we won't be heading out on one of our yearly treks together. Our plan is to stay closer to home and enjoy some of the great opportunities that abound right here in the Hudson Valley. I'll keep you posted on those plans as they develop further. Hopefully, we'll pick up where we left off next year or the year after that with our travels, and I may be nostalgic about what we've done and miss not doing it again in 2013, but I couldn't possibly be sad. I'm just thankful for all the great memories and wonderful stories I have in my head.
One such story revolves around our trip to the Mid-West a few years ago. I won't give you a day by day description, but will cut right to the chase of the highlight of our trip - there always is one most memorable event in every excursion. We had wanted to attend a Native American Pow-Wow since we were going to be in Wyoming and Montana at the end of the summer season. We searched before hand and just couldn't seem to get the right connections with the proper timing. So, we decided to "wing" it and see what we could come up with as the trip progressed. One night after just crossing the border into Wyoming, we came across an obscure announcement about a small, intimate Pow-Wow which was to take place on the Wind River Reservation, not too far from where we were camping. We called the number to confirm and were enthusiastically instructed to show up at the school the following morning at 11:00. The parade would begin then. This was really great. We were so excited and could hardly wait for the next day.
We drove onto the reservation and followed the directions, but surely, we must have made a mistake - there wasn't anyone else to be seen. But, as we arrived at the designated location, we did find the participants readying their floats and preparing to step off. I stopped a woman who looked like someone of authority and she suggested we drive the short distance to the parking lot. We could see and enjoy it much better from there. "Oh!", we said, "That must be where everyone else is parked." Having had past experiences with Native American events, we knew that time was not something that was necessarily adhered to. So, when the parking lot also was empty, we just parked our 29-foot RV and pulled out our folding chairs to get the best view of the impending parade. As we waited, a black pick-up truck pulled up and confirmed we were in the right place and soon the parade would begin. Finally, we heard the music coming from down the road. As the various floats and flatbeds approached, we stood and clapped and the marchers and riders threw us token candies like any other parade we've been to. The only difference is that we were the only spectators!! Not a one - and I truly mean - not one other person was present. Did we feel a little awkward or what? As it ended, the woman we had met from the black truck returned and thanked up profusely. She was Caucasian and introduced herself as the President of the School Board. She and the people of Wind River would be very honored if we would attend the Pow-Wow scheduled to begin at 1:00 pm. Only problem, she cautioned, is that's "Indian Time". It could be 1:00 or maybe 1:20 or maybe 1:40 or even 1:59. You just couldn't tell for sure. That was OK. We'd be back.
And return we did. Upon entering the gym, we saw only a handful of other Caucasians. We were definitely in the minority, something I have always felt everyone must experience a few times in their lives. We were greeted graciously and brought to a place where we could enjoy the festivities. We were concerned that we would appear like intruders on what obviously was a very private affair as everyone there knew each other. Perhaps they all were pleased to have guests, but that I'll never know for sure. Some faces remained serious throughout the afternoon while others would shoot an occasional inquisitive glance. Fortunately for us, there was a newly installed Principal at the school who was also a bit uncomfortable in her new surroundings so we bonded quite quickly after being introduced. After the main events were over, she took us on a tour of the school and provided insight into what it's like to be a teenage resident of such a reservation.
The competitive dancers paraded out into the center of the gym and were judged on dress and technique. There was a great deal of excitement as the winners were announced. Then there was a pause while several of the men brought out long banquet tables and large, large boxes all with gifts wrapped in colorful paper. The Principal then explained to us that this Pow-Wow was truly special and not a regularly scheduled event. It seems that the President of the Board of Education, whom we had met earlier, was actually the wife of the former President. Her husband had been killed in a hiking accident just a year prior. He and his two young teenage children were caught in a rock slide. To protect his children, the father hovered over them and was struck by a falling rock and killed. The teens had to leave their father's body on the mountain and go for help. Aside from the tragedy of losing a father and husband, the school district was left without adequate leadership. Understanding the situation, bravely, his widow stepped up to the plate and took over as President. This Pow-Wow was organized by her in appreciation to all the people who supported her and her family during their mourning period. Starting with her mother-in-law, she presented each of her close family, friends and colleagues with an appropriate gift as a show of thanks. The announcer then called small groups down to the center floor - "anyone who is a junior or senior in high school", for example, - and they were able to select a gift from a designated box. And, this went on and on. Just as the emotion was reaching a crescendo, we hear the booming voice of the leader over the microphone announce, "And, the people in the RV with the Massachusetts license plate, come down to the floor and select a gift. There's one for you here, too." OMG, how embarrassing, but what could we do other than follow instructions? My gift was a small glass jar filled with candies. The contents have long been gone, but that plain jar has a place of honor among my most treasured possessions.
The event concluded with a special dance by all the women. Sugar and I were also asked to participate and given the mandatory shawls to wear for the occasion. Need I say, it was by far one of the most memorable experiences of our travel days? We would never have had this story to tell if we didn't step out of our comfort zone just a little.
The point of my story is that not everyone is comfortable with the same type of travel mode. You may have concerns about flying and feel your choices of vacation spots are limited. Not by any stretch of the imagination - there is a great big world to explore right in our own backyard. On the same note, if you're not sure you want to get in the car and take off alone, there are many tour companies that provide itinerary planning services and make reservations for everything from hotels to guided tours and provide resources so you don't feel you're travelling alone yet you go at your own pace. Or, you might rather leave the driving to someone else. There are some wonderful tour operators who have great itineraries in every part of the US and Canada. And, often touring with a group provides great opportunities to meet people and make new friendships. Or, if you have a special interest, how about a train tour or perhaps cruising would work for you. No matter what your preferred mode of travel, today you can find something to fit your needs. The best way to make the match, is to contact a qualified travel consultant such as Hudson Valley Traveler.
Whatever you do, just get up and do it!! See and experience what the world has to offer. There's so much out there and as Hans Christian Andersen said, "To travel is to live!".
Until next time, as always, safe and happy travels.
Barbara Voerg, Travel Consultant