A dream on wheels

Personal Journeys

My favorite placesI lived my dream...

June 14, 1998|By Karen Willett Barrell | Karen Willett Barrell,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A dream on wheels; My favorite places

I lived my dream! Traveling in a motor home around the United States had been my goal for years, but I actually made it happen - at age 53, female and solo. After being a single mother and high school English teacher, I decided to take the road less traveled. When my youngest child left home, I asked for a leave of absence, purchased a motor home and set off on what turned out to be an odyssey rather than a vacation. After three months and more than 11,000 miles, I had fulfilled a dream most people can only fantasize about. What a feeling of accomplishment! What a way to gain self-confidence!

The preparations seemed insurmountable. First came researching and visits to dealers and RV shows to find the perfect RV for my needs: a 23-foot Class C. Decisions had to be made about a cell phone and long-distance carrier, receiving mail, paying bills, accessing money, etc. For months I made lists of the essentials to take, everything from health-insurance papers to kitchen supplies to a laptop and printer. I tried to cover all the bases, not knowing what the three months might bring. I even updated my will. Hundreds of pages of RV manuals had to be waded through. Then there was the task of planning my journey. I knew I could not see everything, so I talked to people and consulted travel books to identify places that were a must.

Accompanied only by my Lhasa apso, I set out from Chestertown in early September. An unexpected mishap occurred on the second day when I had transmission problems. The parking lot of a car dealership was not exactly my idea of an idyllic campground setting. With the problem solved, I headed north to Lake Superior and then west to my first must-see, Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies in Banff National Park. Everything I had heard about their magnificence was true. My route next took me south to Yellowstone, the Tetons, Monument Valley and the wonders of southern Utah, then across Nevada to Death Valley and eventually the coast of California. The beauty of Arizona's Oak Creek Canyon, crossing Texas and appreciating the Gulf Coast were highlights of the easterly trip home.

Each day I awoke to a new adventure, not knowing what I would see, the travelers I would meet, where I would end that day or what unexpected thing might happen. A blizzard, a tornado, sleet, fog, treacherous mountain passes and desolate stretches were part of my experience, along with breathtaking vistas and inspiring settings. I'll remember signs like "Watch for animals in road next 93 miles" and amusing stories such as the couple arguing about whether they'd been lost for 300 or 500 miles. I'll remember places where the cell phone received no signal and the dashboard radio picked up no station, but the campground offered 40 cable TV channels. Each day now I know that going on the trip was the best decision of my life. When it seems like just a dream, reading my letters and journals and looking at my photographs can take me back and remind me that I did it.

Karen Willett Barrell lives in Chestertown.

Morocco

Patricia D. Jefferies, Baltimore

"After being kept awake all night by the wave action on our small cruise ship anchored off the coast of Morocco, followed by a hot, four-hour bus ride to Marrakesh, we were delighted to discover this 'waterman' in exotic Jemoa el Fra Square. For a few coins each time I clicked, he allowed me to take as many pictures as I wanted."

California

Michael and Susan Hughes, Ellicott City

"After visiting the wine country north of San Francisco, my wife and I headed west to Route 1 and the Pacific Ocean. There's not much to do in Elk, Calif., a sleepy village south of Mendocino, except drink in the incredible vistas and enjoy the wine you've purchased in the various Napa and Sonoma Valley vineyards. In fact, many of the restaurants in the area allow you to bring your own wine for meals and charge a minimal corkage fee."

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