Some years back, not so very many, I was prepared to say that I had done all the traveling my pocketbook would allow and I was content with that until in October of last year an opportunity arose, to wit: money. I had set aside a few dollars over the years and with the stimulus check from our kindly government I was able to enjoy a five-day stay with my daughter in Oklahoma. At that time, she had five of her seven children with her. Yes, that is what I said, five. I have seven grandchildren; all are my daughter’s children.
It was a nice visit as I had not been with them for quite some time. I assumed that little sojourn would be the last for quite some time, if not forever. But I have a friend who says “never say never” and that has proven true as I am, as Willie Nelson says, “on the road again.”
In the past couple weeks, some events took place that have resulted in my now traveling by auto with Steven Wilson, the third one. That will take some explanation so here it is: My son is Steven Conrow Wilson and he is a musher; that is, he owns sled dogs, and he trains them for cross country sledding. Kayak Kennels is his nonprofit organization wherein he runs some 28 dogs. He is centered outside the little town of Blanchard, Idaho, which is about an hour’s drive south of the Canadian border up in the Idaho “stovepipe.”
He works as a carpenter in the off season and mushes during the winters and has just returned from a four-month stint providing sled rides to patrons of the Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, Mont., which is where the exterior scenes for a TV series called “Yellowstone” are filmed. A very ritzy establishment with some of the most beautiful scenery in the western states.
For this year’s mushing my son took along as his right-hand man a 23-year-old fellow by the name of Steven Cameron Wilson. Now, here it must be explained this is not my son’s son, but rather his nephew and my grandson. Because my daughter, Jenny Wilson, retains her maiden name she has three Steven C. Wilsons in her life: Steve her father, Steven her brother and Cam her son. OK, got that straight?
After his time was up in Montana and Idaho, my grandson planned to drive to his mother’s new home in Edmond, Okla., a trip of nearly 1,800 miles. When he arrives it will be the first time in a few years that all seven of my daughter’s children will be under her roof and I decided I wanted to be part of it. And, once again, our benevolent government has made that possible; I am stimulating the economy.
So, after a late flight out of San Jose to Spokane, Wash., I spent a couple days with them, one of them my son’s 41st birthday, after which my grandson and I set out on a road trip; my first driving trip in almost a decade and only his second long-distance drive. We are covering territory I traveled over with my family on vacations back in the early 1960s (we had relatives in Montana and Iowa) and I find it both nostalgic and adventuresome to be riding America’s heartland roads, seeing sights and riding roads old to me and new to my grandson.
The biggest plus of course is getting better acquainted with this young man; the oldest of the brood. And as long as I have gone this far, may as well add the rest of the clan: This is from the oldest at 23 years to the youngest at 7 years: Steven Cameron Wilson, Emily Camille Dilleshaw, Caleb Zachary John Dilleshaw, Rebecca Sami Kimiko Jarvis, Weston Steward Jarvis, Leilani Wilma Haruka Jarvis and Samuel Alan Jarvis. I could cite their birthdays, but I don’t have that much time nor wish to short-circuit my brain.
Now, before you all get the idea this column will see a lot of family stuff like my kid’s accomplishments or my grandkids and their cute little antics, I can tell ya now that ain’t gonna happen. It just so happens this column involves a lot of people who just happen to be family members.
As I write this I am in a cabin outside of Darby, Mont., after a five-hour drive down from upper Idaho. While my heart will always be in the Central Coast area and I have never ceased to speak to others of its beauty, I will admit this part of the Northwest is indeed scenic; majestic snow-covered peaks, winding rivers, forests for miles and miles and many small, quaint towns tucked among the hills and valleys. But if I had to sum up the most prominent aspect of the area right now, it would be one word: cold. OK, two words: real cold. Temperatures have stayed in the high 20s and low 30s constantly. Last night it snowed and even the locals are tired of it. Spring has sprung elsewhere, but here in the Bitterroot National Forest it is still very much winter.
This may be my last opportunity to add to this week’s column if I intend to meet the deadline, so I’ll take a line or two to lay out our tentative agenda for the road. As much of the rest of the trip will be new to my grandson, I want to visit (if time allows — it is still some 1,500 miles to my daughter’s home in Oklahoma) some sights along the way. The first is the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, which is just south of Billings, Mont. I was there at age 12 with my family and since that time I have read numerous books on the event and want my grandson to know what important event took place there.
From there we don’t really know our route. We could remain heading south on the I-25 through Wyoming to Cheyenne and then head east again, or we could stay on the I-90 East through the Black Hills of South Dakota to Rapid City and visit Mount Rushmore and then head south again on some of the smaller routes. America is filled with small highways and roads that offer wonderful opportunity to experience the land in a way that cannot be had while zipping along the major interstates.
But whatever routes we choose and what we see or do not see or how long it takes us all come second to the opportunity I have of spending this time with my oldest grandson. Who knows, he may even let grandpa do some of the driving. Stay safe. Peace.