Yes! It is THE Life . . . for this wandering vagabond. It was a rainy day during my drive yesterday from northwest Nebraska to the national forest campground I called home last night. It was not a great day for taking photos and frankly, while rain is a very necessary commodity, especially in "bread basket" farm areas like Nebraska, but while other parts of the country are in drought, some parts of Nebraska pastures and fields looked like lakes.
This morning I woke up to a gorgeous sunny, cool, crisp (about mid 40's) morning at my national forest campsite. There are some real advantages to being a "senior citizen" like the lifetime National Park Golden Eagle pass. For a one time investment when you're over 62 of $10.00 you get free access to all U.S. national parks. In the last couple weeks that $10.00 investment has saved me about $60 at national park gates. Additionally, it saves typically 50% from camping fees at park service operated campgrounds. So, last night I got my site for $5.50 including electrical service. Thus, I used my small electric space heater to stay warm, dry and cozy. My "tin can tent" was like a small cabin.
Here's my campsite with My McVansion comfortably nestled in the trees.
And, my personal chef, lil 'ol me, set up my outdoor kitchen and whipped up a breakfast of fried eggs, mesquite smoked sausage, Swiss cheese, my favorite spices, a bagel and cream cheese, a banana and some Greek yogurt - and started off with a nice hot cup of British blend, black tea. It was a meal fit for a king (British tea and all that sort of stuff).
Add to this the sounds of classic 1950's rock & roll playing forth from my Sirius satellite radio. Neil Sedaka, Connie Francis, Kingston Trio, lots of doowop and other favorites from my early teen years. How perfect can life be?
Well, it might have a bit nicer if I had one or two friends to share the experience with. The occasional companionship of a person of the opposite gender would be nice. However, I'm not the least bit lonely. I'm living exactly the lifestyle I want to live. No, I'm really never lonely. I'm in contact with friends from all over the country and overseas. My buddy Brian in New Zealand, my buddy Dave from Falls Church, VA who rendezvoused with me in Sheridan, WY the other day, my friend Richard, in Sebastian, FL, my friend Tommy in Port Charlotte, FL, my friend John (and his wife, Sharon) in Cherokee Village, AR. This list could go on and on. Between those I keep in contact by phone, text, email and in-person visits along the way, who has time to be lonely.
My buddy, Dave, is in Jackson, WY today and actually, about the time I'm composing this article is floating down the Snake River on a raft. I crossed the Snake River twice on this trip so far.
Unfortunately, while my lifestyle is generally idyllic, there are always a few things of a negative nature, like the deaths of two of my long time friends while I've been on this trek. Jim Smith was a recording engineer who worked for me around 1980, I helped give his recording career a kick start. After he left me, I referred him to National Public Radio and gave him a letter of recommendation - that led to his becoming the technical director of "All Things Considered" and "Morning Edition," the two NPR flagship programs. His career moved onward and upward from there. Unfortunately, a battle with cancer claimed Jim at the young age of 66.
My 35 year friend, broadcaster, speaker, student and advocate of humor, Art Gliner, passed away a week ago after dealing with the cruelness of dementia for about eight years. Art was a young 80 years old. A self-made successful, generous. caring, sharing man if there ever was one. A person I had the extreme privilege of counting among my wealth of friends. As a legacy, Art shared his brother Richard with me, so I have the privilege of having another friend and a constant reminder of Art.
My youngest sister continues to deal with the cruelness of an abusive, sociopathic ex-husband and a troubled 16 year old daughter and the Virginia court system. Her problems have been going on for over 16 years. I've attempted to assist her as I have been able, but unfortunately her situation is so extreme and complex and I'm such an inconsequential part, there is little I've been able to do. I feel terrible for her and her situation, but there is no simple solution and, of course, throwing piles of money at lawyers and the problem might have some impact, but she doesn't have it nor do I. And, I wish I could say she is the only person going through these kinds of issues. But, I can't! I've met too many people over my life who've been in similar situations. As the old saying goes, "Life isn't fair."
But, for this wandering vagabond, This IS The Life! I'm free to come and go as I please. Everything this morning is near perfect. Well, except for the occasional noisy ATV that goes by or a freight train going by about a half mile away on a freight line. Most of them seem to be hauling coal, a politically controversial commodity these days. But, regardless of the controversy, it's currently necessary to keep this country and economy operating.
So, after I get this article posted I'll be cranking up the "thrusters" on my "metal magic carpet" and heading east across the vast pastures and fields of manna that are Nebraska on my way to another of our bread basket states, Iowa. When I reach eastern Iowa, I'll be stopping in to visit my speaker friend, Jolene Brown and her farmer husband, Keith, at their farm for a short visit. Yet, another visit with another amazing couple and amazing careers. All things being equal, I should arrive at the farm on Monday and I'm looking forward to it. I get to experience another part of Americana, the great family farm that has been the backbone of this country.
I wish you all the freedom you can muster and all the happiness you choose to experience in your life as this vagabond rolls on down the highways and byways of America.