‍‍‍Mesa, AZ
October, 2017 to April, 2018.

‍‍‍Ahhhhhh, another winter in sunny Arizona! Blessed indeed to once again be at the Usery Regional Mountain Park Campground! My time spent with staff in the campground is so comfortable…like family!

This assignment just flew by and it was good to meet up again with friends both in and out of the hospital. During this time friendships were renewed and strengthened, Bingo played, church experienced, and loss of a dear friend. Char was my boss and mentor, she made every person she came in contact with feel like they were the most important person in the world.

When I teach Nursing Leadership and Management online, every time servant leadership is addressed, I share my Char stories. She was the best of the best.

My brother-in-law, Len, also passed away in March leaving behind a beautiful family, a loss that is difficult to bear, but a life well lived and he was loved by so many people.

Time to say goodbye for another summer out of the Arizona heat!

‍‍‍28 Days On The Road
April to May, 2018.

‍‍‍Well, I decided to take my time to my next assignment which will be 21 weeks in Worland, Wyoming. Touring the National Parks was the goal of the trip, but the highlight was spending a week in Bend, Oregon with my good friend, Lyn!

My first stop was in Christopher Creek Campground outside of Payson, Arizona where I visited with Ken and Sandy. Ken was the camp host I met when I first got Myrna and we have become good friends. He says “the sister I never had.” Ken is a great cook, fried up some fish, and we had a wonderful visit.

I had never been to Utah before so my next stop was to visit the 5 National Parks in the southern part of the state: Lake Powell, Zion, Bryce Canyon, The Grand Staircase, and Capitol Reef. Determined to make a list from best to least has been horribly unsuccessful as I repeatedly changed the order whenever I look at pictures I’ve taken. Each one is so unique and amazing beyond words to describe just exactly what you see.Next stop was the Great Basin National Park in Nevada where I camped 3.5 miles down a gravel road (a 1st for Myrna) and the number of stars seen at night was more than I had ever seen before! Drove the “Loneliest Highway in America” U.S. Route 50, through the middle of the state and it truly lived up to its name!

‍‍‍Alturas, California was a great stop over with the friendliest casino employees, a BBQ dinner, and of course, some slot machines! I had planned to keep going west towards San Jose to meet up with cousins, but some bad weather was rolling in and Myrna, mountains, wind, and rain do not mix. I just went ahead and drove to Bend, Oregon instead. Lyn and I had a fantastic visit. We laughed a lot and ate our way through Bend!

We went to Crater Lake National Park on a perfectly clear day and although the roads were still closed due to snow, the view from Visitors Center was phenomenal. You could barely tell where the lake ended and the sky began! Oregon is known for the marionberry, a cross between two blackberries. We ate breakfast at the famous McKay Cottage where our server, Abraham “like the president” provided a list of the scone offerings of the day. Lyn informed him that my name was Marian Barry and he laughed. He came back shortly stating that if I could prove that was my name the owner said I could have a jar of their homemade Marionberry Jam! Well, I whipped out my driver’s license so fast…I have my jam and Abraham had a great story to tell his wife when he got home!

From Oregon to Idaho and Craters of the Moon National Park. It was eerie driving through this desolate area of blackened lava. I could not help but thinking about Hawaii and the volcanic activity going on their right now. Years from now will it be this barren?My next stop was the Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I spent 4 days/3 nights in Grand Teton and saw so many elk and buffalo that I couldn’t keep up the count! Watching the elk come down from the mountains in straight lines was unbelievable. They follow the leader, when it stops, they all stop. As they approach the next herd, they stop and wait before cautiously joining the group. Before it was over there were nearly 400 in the field! I was amazed. Came back the next day to watch the events play out the same way. This time though I stayed longer and all of a sudden they all sat down! It was the weirdest thing, a field full of beige butts with only 7-10 left standing. It was like a cult…follow the leader, graze in the field, sit down!!! They were still sitting when I finally drove away.

I was going to finish up in Yellowstone, but the southern entrance was still closed due to snow and I’m here for 21 weeks, I’m sure I’ll get there a time or two!!! The adventures continue…

‍‍‍Worland, WY
May to October, 2018.

‍‍‍Wyoming is amazing, far more beautiful than I could have ever imagined! I thought the state was flat and sagebrush…WRONG. It is mostly mountains and even the flatlands around Worland are in the high desert at 4,065 feet. The winding roads between each town are picturesque, offering views of colorful mountain ranges, vibrant wildflowers, and an array of antelope, deer, buffalo, and moose. With the population of Wyoming just over 579,000 the roads are never crowded. I jokingly told people that even if every person in Wyoming was on the road at the same time it would not be as crowded as those in the Phoenix metro area!

The people are some of the most caring individuals I have ever met. They go out of their way to help a person and eagerly share the best of the state so that you don’t miss a thing. From food to backroad trips, to the best RV repair, they are looking out for you every step of the way! I had my first big Myrna issue there. While out touring to see wild horses, I was unable to get out of low gear. About 40 miles from Worland I rolled into FIR (Fix it Right) where the owner tried to help but was unable to read Myrna’s computer. I needed to get a tow to the nearest Mercedes dealership which was in Billings, Montana, 2 ½ hours away.

Finding a tow company willing to make the trip was difficult and I even called Mike and Julie back at the RV park in Worland to see if they knew anyone. Mike started making calls and even called the owner of FIR who said, “you mean the one sitting out front here?” Now having lived in Louisiana for 16 years I knew all about Southern Hospitality, but I’m here to tell you they’ve met their match with Western Hospitality!

The people in Billings from the tow truck driver to Ryan the service manager, to Bryan the mechanic, to the staff at the hotel next door, to the insurance company representative, EVERYONE was wonderful…and…they all had relatives who were nurses…mother, wife, aunt, sister…they all LOVED nurses! I must tell what was wrong with Myrna. A pregnant mouse needed to find a place to have her babies and found her way deep into my engine. The nest caught fire and burned the manifold flap. After $3000 and 5 days in Billings, Myrna and I were back on the road.

I had never heard of mouse damage before, but after researching on the internet, found this to be a very common thing. Now I have strategically placed dryer sheets throughout the engine compartment that I change out weekly when I do laundry. I purchased a Pesticator from Home Depot which shimmies the negative wiring in the rig and puts out a little clicking noise that only rodents can hear. I have a bright light to place under the engine as they do not like bright spaces. I’m pretty sure that Myrna will have no more rodent issues…she smells like a whorehouse and is lit up like a supermarket!!!

Apache Junction, AZ
October, 2015 to May, 2016.

‍‍‍During this time I continued to look for the perfect RV while taking on the daunting task of getting ready to move out of my home of 16 years. Not only was I going through my things, but also those of Mom and Dad. After sharing personal keepsakes with brothers and sisters and various family members, getting rid of everything else was easy.

It ended up being the most freeing experience, selling only my bedroom set and giving everything else away. During my research I found that keeping things in storage for some future unknown time was not an option. Many others had done this and spent money for years, never once even going to the storage unit. I got rid of everything!

In February I found my new home, made a call to Schaap’s RV Traveland, and put a down payment on Myrna. On April 22nd I closed on my home and on April 28th was on a plane to Sioux Falls, SD, two years to the day that Mom died, a sign to me that I was doing just what I was supposed to be doing!

Fargo, ND
May to October‍‍‍, 2017.

I knew I did not want to spend the summer in the Phoenix metro area in 110+ degrees so when the opportunity came to go north, I was all for it. Nearly 1700 miles to be exact! What a fine time I am having touring North Dakota and Minnesota on my off days.

The hospital schedules all staff to have seven days off every three weeks which is just perfect for Myrna and Me to tour! I work 12 hour shifts, working Fri/Sat/Sun, off Monday, work Tue/Wed/Thu, then off seven days, and repeat this schedule all summer! Life is very good. Everyone is eager to share destinations that are a must see, and often I come back telling of state parks in their own backyard they have never visited!

I love Myrna more every single day. When on these road trips I am in no hurry, I have seven days off! If I need a nap, I just pull over and sleep in my own bed and use my own clean bathroom! It could not be better.

A 20 minute power nap and we are on the road again. North Dakota has some absolutely beautiful state parks. Fort Ransom, Fort Abraham Lincoln, Turtle Creek, Graham’s Island, and Icelandic are real gems. I spent three days in Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Medora, ND experiencing all that the badlands have to offer.

Fairbanks, AK
July, 2015‍‍‍ to October, 2015.

What an opportunity! To go to Alaska for 13 weeks, work three days a week, and tour the state the rest of the time. I made the most of this time, putting 4000+ miles on my rental car! Because Alaska is so far away most travel nurses do not drive up.

I was flown there and put up at the Wedgewood Resort that catered to travelers, mostly firefighters and hospital staff. It was a completely furnished one bedroom apartment with housekeeping service once a week! It was on 75 acre wildlife sanctuary, right next door to a 2000 acre migratory waterfowl refuge, Creamers Field.

I spent many days just sitting out and watching the ducks, birds, and sandhill cranes.I traveled to Denali National Park three times and past it several times and never once saw Mount McKinley due to clouds. Denali is amazing, a six million acre national park with one road in and the same road out in order to preserve the natural habitat that has remained the same FOREVER!

You were only allowed to drive in the first 15 miles, past that was all on tour buses. I took the 62 mile in trip and it was phenomenal. It was an all day trip where we saw an array of moose, dall sheep, caribou, and bears; the time flew by and there was never a dull moment! The next day went white water rafting down the Nenana River…me…white water rafting!!!

While touring I always tried to stay at bed and breakfasts’ to really get the feel of the culture and area. I went to the Midnight Sun Intertribal Powwow and experienced the dancing, food, and pageantry of the event. It was very interesting, family oriented, drum circles and beautiful regalia. It is a nonstop dance-a-thon! They did a potato dance where two people held a potato between their heads and a caller giving them instructions on what dance steps to be doing, the last one keeping potato in place won.

A prominent member of one of the tribes died last year and there was a moving ceremony where the family walked around the arena (a tent with bales of straw in a circle, all goings on in the circle are considered sacred), next the veterans walked in behind them, followed by the different tribes joining in, then they invited everyone in attendance to join in. I spoke to his daughter later and she said it was unexpected, that they weren't even going to come this year, but that her daughter reminded them that he would have wanted them all to dance, so they came.

Took an unbelievable tour on the Riverboat Discovery down the Chena River that flows right through Fairbanks. This multi-generational family has been doing these tours for over 60 years and have it down pat. There is a bush plane that takes off right next to the boat, a stop at the home and kennels of a 4 time Iditarod winner, and then at a replica of an Athabaskan Indian village. Very educational and inspiring. Went halibut fishing in Homer, Alaska, the Halibut Fishing Capitol of the World. There I met up with the son of my boss and mentor, Char, which was very cool.

I was there for a week and a half before I saw the dark of night! It is so strange to see people riding bikes and washing their cars at midnight. The vegetables and flowers are huge with such long daylight hours. A zinnia usually quite small would be the size of a dinner plate and cabbage couldn’t fit into a five gallon bucket! I went to the farmers market each week and really enjoyed seeing all the HUGE produce.

I was amazed to learn how many people went to Alaska to get lost, drop out, and try not to be found. Also there are many there who live in dry cabins, with no bathroom and no running water. The hospital had showers located all throughout the hospital for staff use. Staff really made me feel welcome and eager for me to experience their way of life. Fairbanks is ground zero for the best place to see the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, and I found a good place for viewing to be on the grounds of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“They” say to see the animals active you have to be up before sunrise or just before dusk. I hit the mother load in the park at 5:15 AM seeing so many buffalo that I quit counting, at least 70-100, I just could not quit smiling. Wild horses, deer, and prairie dogs galore! What an experience and at that time of the morning, minimal traffic…except for the buffalo! Minnesota also has wonderful parks.

The Mississippi River starts right in Itasca State Park and I’m enjoying the start of fall and changing colors of the trees in Maplewood State Park. I have only one real desire when picking the perfect campsite…a place to hang my hammock, her name is Mavis! It’s pretty cool now I am identifying just where I am from my hammock and which book I’m reading at the time; thanks LP!

I have never been a reader, but in Payson, AZ last summer, my friend, George got me started. I even belonged to the library in Payson! I wanted to read about the people who 100+ years ago had the foresight to preserve these lands for future generations. Powell, Teddy Roosevelt, Muir, to name a few. What a gift for generations to come.

‍‍‍Mesa, AZ
November, 2016 to May, 2017.

One can never be wrong spending the winter months in Mesa! The weather is perfect…sunshine, mild temperatures. The Usery Regional Mountain Park became my home during this time which was absolutely perfect. I knew it was right when my very first day back in the valley there was a red sunset…I was “home.”

The desert became such a peace-filled experience, one I had never had before. Often I would talk to God, but I never really took the time to “listen.” By literally living here in the desert I became more in touch with my God than I had ever before.

The winter rain brought a beautiful spring with cacti blooming that had not done so for many years. The desert brings so much peace, from the birds singing to the coyotes howling in harmony, to the full moon coming over the mountain, it is a blessing to experience such calm and to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Listening became my life.

Often I’m asked if I don’t get lonesome traveling. Absolutely not. I am blessed to have a profession where my work feeds me with what I need from others. The love, the sharing, the caring of my patients sustains me. And whenever I go to a new hospital, I am automatically accepted into a group of caring individuals, who welcome me with open arms, include me in their lives, encouraging me to experience their community, happy to show off what makes their area special. It is a win-win for all of us!

Mesa is extra special because it has been “home” for more than 20 years. It is great to meet up with old friends and make new ones. The Usery has a fantastic group of individuals that volunteer their time in exchange for their spot at the park. Pretty good deal and one I will keep in mind for the future!

Payson, AZ
May to October, 2‍‍‍016.

This was my first trip in Myrna! This was a trial of sorts, would I need to pull a vehicle or put a scooter on the back. I quickly realized I did not need a thing…Myrna could go anywhere and was very easy to maneuver. I’m so glad I practiced because I didn’t want to put a rack on back if not needed. I also learned about the RV life. I had help from a couple of camp hosts who have now become good friends, Ken and Don.

When it came time for my first oil change in my generator, I wanted to do it myself, but I wanted someone to watch to be sure I didn’t mess up, Don did this. When I had condensation from my hose in the tightly sealed compartment, Ken reassured me nothing was leaking!

Most of these first six months was spent at the Ponderosa Campground in the Tonto National Forrest. At $8 a night (with my senior pass!) it was quite a deal. No electric or water hookup on site, the weather was perfect and I used the generator only minimally during this time. I cooked most of my meals on the campfire and had just a fine time.

The tall Ponderosa Pines swayed day and night and the views up on the Rim were absolutely gorgeous. Arizona Highways magazine that summer headlined Rim Country and I had been to most every site pictured!I lived in my hammock, even having two set up in the campsite, for when the sun rays changed affecting my ability to read! Laying in that hammock and looking up through those tall trees to the blue sky reminded me of a green and blue plaid flannel shirt and made me smile every time.

Spent a lot of time at Woods Canyon Lake on the Rim, camping right on the lake. Fun fishing, visiting with friends who came up, and watching the elk that roamed freely throughout the campground. One morning it was storming something terrible, lightning and thunder. Gloria and George were there and sleeping in a small blue tent. I looked out the window during the storm trying to get their attention to tell them to come in. While watching, a bright ball of lightning came down, I knew it was close, but not how close. I just said a prayer that it didn’t hit anyone or cause a fire. The next morning we were shocked to see just how close it was! In the Gallery you can see the blue tent and Myrna in the background.

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