Finding True North

Balancing two cups of coffee I slid open the patio door with my toe and leaned into our redneck back yard. Pansies, daisies, and lilies and tons of Miracle Grow couldn't hide the thirty-five bus seats, yards of vinyl flooring, a diesel engine, a stack of tired tires, nor the six-foot-four man hugging his new converted motor home.

The day Ed proudly tooted the horn (the only thing working) the neighbor's gasped, eyes rolled, property values dropped, and the cult-a-sack was never the same. A year's worth of sweat equity and the monstrous, army-gray, prisoner transport bus was now a sparkling modern motor home. For Ed it was a learning experience. He was a skilled mechanic but he now could add carpenter, plumber and electrician to his resume.

As we sipped our brew I waited for the right moment. After 20 years of marriage I knew better than to ask how-what-when or where he thought we might go in his new battleship. He never liked to think very far ahead for fear there would be some kind of deadline he'd have to meet.

Sometimes, just to watch his body cringe, I’d asked him, "So honey, what are you doing this weekend?" He invariably he answered with a guarded, "I don't know, why?" I think he was afraid I’d make plans that didn't include his usual workout with the remote control that included removing the wallpaper as he snored.

Finally, I popped the question. "So dear where do you think we should vacation"?

Gathering his thoughts from the bottom of his cup, he said, "I don't know, why?"

"I was thinking adventure, new territory putting a little pioneer spirit back in our cheeks." I started. “What do you say?”

Predictably, his spine twitched. "What?" "Where?”

"Alaska, I was thinking Alaska, yea, let's go to Alaska!"

He grinned his little boy grin.

The scenery takes one’s breath away and is endless. Thousands of miles of the same beautiful scenery left us beauty bored. We passed into Yukon Territory unceremoniously I grabbed a romance novel as my enthusiasm began to wane, petered out ... no die.

We toured the pioneer museum at Dawson Creek and glimpsed what it must have been like for the pioneers. I thanked God I didn't have to chop wood, haul water and cook over a wood stove. But, traveling isn’t all that easy. We dealt with sunken highways that our bucket of bolts disappeared into from time to time.

Then there was the Top of the World Highway where the motor home belched pumice dust from every orifice, like a church pipe organ playing, "Happy Trails to You," until the bedroom resembled King Tut's Tomb. Airline tickets to anywhere were looking mighty good. But we gathered up our pioneer spirit and decided we were going to enjoy this vacation if it killed us.

When we reached Fairbanks we stuffed quarters into a vacuum machine, the car wash and showers. I cleaned and Ed caulked. Neither this nor the steel mosquito traps, I’d purchased earlier detour the twenty pound, blood thirsty, mean critters named Sashi and Vito who visited us that evening.

Scheduled to speak at a local church, the next day, I slapped calamine on my bites and Preparation-H under my eyes and gave a darn good workshop if I do say so. The Fairbanks people are great. They are the pioneer spirit. Maybe, dark zero degree winters and mosquito immunity in the double digits had something to do with it.

Now here is where things get tricky. I forgot I was traveling with rocket man and rocket man is heading south. We both had enough of the great Wild West and were ready for our own redneck backyard. But my perception of heading home and Ed's differ greatly. The words, self-contained motor home, mean something here. He is like a horse to the barn, with blinders on. His nickname is not to be taken lightly. A full tank of gas is Nirvana.

I on the other hand held out the hope that there would be something along the Cassiar Highway to visit or shop. Right? Wrong. The State of Alaska, for our amusement, planted the identical beautiful trees, mountains, and streams on the road going south.

Maybe shopping could cure my boredom. I began pointing out old garage sale signs and a sign with arrows to God knows where. I would have given my first born for a mall. All my hints fell on deaf ears. Ed with eyes glazed over tightened his grip on the stirring wheel and said nothing. I knew he was alive because he grunted once.

I prayed to be rescued. Be careful what you pray for.
SCREEEEECHHH, BOOM, BANG, CRASH, bawled from deep within the bowels of our major transportation. I thought it had lost its guts. It did. Ed pulled to the shoulder of the road to investigate. The fresh water holding tank laid scraped and bruised on the payment tucked between the two rear tires like a baby with a full diaper. "Well, are you happy? We’ve stopped," Ed grinned.

“Well, yes as a matter of fact I am. I smirked.

Now, I knew Ed could fix most anything but this bordered on genius. Eighty miles from nowhere, my genius husband whipped out a heavy duty, black extension cord, lassoed the back of the massive dome, and yanked up the cord tight until it lifted the water tank off the payment and back into its cavity. He then tied it in a bow and down the road we went.

EAT, FOOD, GET, GAS welcomed us to a weathered barn and a one-pump, gas station.
"Guess what?" Ed began, "I have some good news and some bad news. As luck would have it I found a welder." Then he added, “the welder is eighty miles away and isn't expected back until late this evening and won't be able to fix the tank until tomorrow"

"So what's the bad news"? I hummed.

"If memory serves me, I saw a gift shop sign just up the road." Ed nodded, reaches for his Louis L'Amour novel, and started his sonic wallpaper remover.
“GIFT SHOP.” My eyes glossed as I walked past the sign and into a nestle of giant Douglas Firs. There on one of two log cabins swung a wooden sign. Tires, tools and what-not propped along the outside wall led to an outdoor privy and reminded me of home. I walked swiftly toward, "GIFT SHOP" heaven.

"Can I help you, hey"?

"Yes," I stammered breathlessly, "gift shop?"

My new French-Canadian friend, Charlene, swung open the door to shopper’s paradise. Well, almost. Native American merchandise of all shapes and sizes, shat-keys, do-dads and what-cha-ma-call-its from China or Japan were masked in a light dusting of cobwebs. But I was shopping and best of all talking to another human being.

"Great weather we’re having?” I started.

"Yep,” Charlene replied.

Trying to keep things going, I said, "Do you get many visitors?"

"Yep," she ducked behind the counter.

"Are these real whale bone earrings?”

"Yep, made locally, hey?"

I had found Ed's soul mate. I wasn't sure whether I was taking up too much of her time or she didn't know what to say. Before I could reached the door knob and say good-bye, I heard, "would you like some licorice, hey?"

"Yes, sure," I said.

An hour past: we learn about each other as our licorice turned to coffee. When Charlene’s two French Canadian friends poured out of their pickup truck the coffee then turned to beer.

Pierre Amore favored the actor Peter Lorre and his buddy Ben Gay (his real name) had the rugged good looks of Gilbert Roland. (Two old, old movies stars) There is nothing better than being wooed by two dashing Frenchmen in flannel shirts. Neither one was terribly dashing but like shopping who cares. A receding hairline, old movie star looks and a French smile that could melt any heart gave Pierre full permission to tip back his
beer, stroke my arm, and ask, "Are you married?" And he was the harmless one.

"Oh la-la-la-la." Is all I remember as I watched Ben Gay's pencil thin mustache blow smoke circles around his straight black hair. He just smiled that's all he had to do. The conversation was as checkered as the kitchen table. City girl meets the frontiersmen. What a contrast.

Yet, we were not all that different. We all hurt, loved and lived life same.

It was then I remembered, "Oh, Ed I’d better get back to the motor home."

“Why don’t you come back for moose steaks tonight, hey?" Charlene quipped. “Here are the keys to my pickup, hey"? Charlene produced a worn, wooden plank with two keys attached by a wire.

I thought this a little too trusting until heard her hollered, "Max, Max!" Max, a German shepherd, the size of a small horse became airborne and leaped ten feet from the porch to the tail gate.

The two minute drives back gave me no time sober up or justify myself.

"You'll never guess where I've been." I sloshed at a waiting Ed.

"Don't tell me, there's a Nordstroms behind those trees and it was open," he quipped.

"Noticing my knuckles were dragging, Ed lovingly, handed me a cup of coffee and hoped I'd become coherent soon. I think I saw a glimmer of enthusiasm in mister excitements eyes as I shared our invitation to moose steak dinner. Even Ed had road-cabin fever.

“Come on in,” Ben said, as he leaned into the screen door. "The barbecue hasn't started yet, but that leaves room for more beer, hey?”

Oil lamps and bottles of beer illuminated our faces. Anyway, I was lit. French Canadians have an astonishing disposition for the golden brew. They had been drinking for hours and were still standing at the ten o'clock hour. I don’t know, maybe it inoculates them against mosquitoes.

"Who's going to start the fire, hey"? Ben declared, “I'm getting hungry, hey?"

Getting Hungry? I thought. Max's dog food was looking gourmet. Many brown bottles later, bellows of smoke revealed elephantine, blood running, three inch thick moose steaks. Slyly, Pierre smiled, stabbed one and like a new born babe helped me carry it to the table. I can have no opinion about moose steak. Beer, hunger and an eleven o'clock dinner leave little time for a true taste test. I believe it was delicious.

Tales of moose and bear hunts, and brave firefighter rescues wound around the campfire like smoke and so much hot air.

The morning brought coffee, toast and a welder. Within hours we were on the road again tapping off the last half of our adventure. The scenery remained the same but our perspectives had been altered. We were not the same two people who had, fourteen day ago, forged the wilderness with a microwave, television, CB, and a VCR. We both had a deeper appreciation of what life is really about: A campfire, moose steak and good friends.

Travel, as life, transforms us. It requires risk, hazards and frequent bouts of making a fool of ourselves. Isn't that what life is about anyway? You live to tell about it, and in the process your vision of whom you are and what is possible changes. You learn lessons
about perseverance and flexibility, getting lost and found again, losing control and liking it, junking plans and following your gut. Traveling on your wits and your feet instills faith in yourself and the universe. You learn to believe your own instincts, and to know that if you keep moving you'll somehow get where you need to be. You also discover what you need to triumph over challenges and changes when you get back home: the idea that you can.

Author's Bio: 

Judy Pearson, professional speaker and author is started her career in an uncommon way.

Born and raised in Northern California, graduated college and married during the Vietnam War. Judy was an ordinary house wife and mother of two teenagers when her life changed forever. In a post operative consultation her doctor dropped the news. "Tumor the size of a grapefruit, cancer in the 3rd degree, chemotherapy in two weeks." She was overwhelmed when the doctor added...

"Your mind has nothing to do with it, you must take chemotherapy."

Sometimes you just have to take stock and take a stand. A pivotal decision was made to explore the world of alternative and natural health care. Scared yet determined, she acquainted herself with naturopaths, chiropractors, and herbalist. Studying psychology, theology and different philosophies she took a common sense approach to self healing. As Judy puts it, "I thought I couldn't set foot in a health food store unless I wore Birkenstocks and never shaved my legs. But I did it anyway."

Life is an exploration as Judy discovered the secret connection between healthy communication and a healthy body she realized that communication is the hub of the wheel of life. Everything we hear, say and act upon affects our relationships, leadership, careers, finances and well being.

Learning first hand the value of living life light, communicating effectively and developing the qualities of an Unconquerable Spirit, Judy has been healthy for over 25 years. She lives in Portland Oregon with her family and Taz the dachshund.

Today Judy speaks to major corporations, businesses, associations, colleges, and universities around the nation sharing her communication expertise, humorous stories and passion for life. Her mission is to work with people who want to make a difference in the world.