Vagabond in America 2016 travel blog

All alone in the State Park

Along the trail

Obstacle on the trail

After the tire blowout, my top goal was to relax and unwind. Here at Devil’s Den State Park, that’s pretty easy. It’s snuggled in the middle of the Ozarks, the only mountain range between the Rockies in the west and the Appalachians in the east.

The park was jam-packed with families: kids on bicycles, kids on skate boards, everyone walking their dogs. I’ve become accustomed to loud campfire chats on a Saturday night. I turned on the fan beside my bed, which effectively drowned out most of the sound.

Sunday morning was the same. People everywhere. Around noon, after a bike ride in the forest, I went in for a nap. When I woke up, the place was nearly empty! No sounds; no people; no RVs or tents. By nightfall, I was the only one in my entire campground loop. I could see a few rigs in the distance on other campground loops. That’s standard but a bit more empty than normal.

Everywhere that I’ve stayed in the last year have been filled with what I call “travelers” (spending weeks or months at a time on the road) or “seasonals” (spending the entire summer or the entire winter at one campground). Since this is a state park, there are no seasonals. Since most school districts are back in session, there are very few families traveling. The only ones left are a few retired couples and me.

I rode my bike every day among the many mountain trails. Back in New England, there are many good mountain bike trails. No matter where I went, I was never alone. Here, you’re far from civilization. No cell phone, no highways, no planes overhead. Nothing but you and nature.

As I mentioned earlier, my son’s rule is: “If you come home from mountain biking and you’re not bleeding, you’re not trying hard enough. If an ambulance is involved, you’re trying too hard.” When I’m alone out in the wilderness, I have a different rule: “If you’re pretty sure you can safely take that route, don’t! Unless you’re absolutely positive, stop, dismount and walk.” If I fell out here and got injured, how long before someone found me? I pass up some pretty amazing stuff but I live to tell about it!

For extra protection, I carry an InReach, which is a small, handheld, two-way communication device that works with satellites not cell phones. So, it works even way out here. It’s “tracking” feature automatically sends my current GPS location to a website or anyone I specify. I even bought insurance to cover any extra cost for “search and rescue”. If I’m conscious, I’ll be OK.

One morning, before heading out, I powered it up and sent out a “leaving civilization” message to a few relatives and good friends. The tall trees blocked my view of the sky, hence blocking its view of the satellites. I temporarily placed in on the hood of my truck while it searched. Then, I loaded my bike with food and water and headed out into the wilderness.

After a mile without seeing a sole, I went to check on my InReach, to verify that it was sending out a log of my current location. Where's my InReach? Ahhhhh! Back on my truck’s hood. Sigh. Not wanting to be featured weeks from now in a story titled “human remains discovered by hikers”, I reluctantly turned around and went back. Sigh.

My next jump was across the border into Kansas. On my first full day there, the morning was fantastic. Puffy clouds on a blue sky. Around noon, the sky started to get dark, followed by a light rain. Then, it started to get “interesting”.

As Dorothy said to the Munchkins, “The wind began to switch; the house to pitch.” Fortunately, this storm only lasted long enough to form a small lake around my RV.

It doesn’t take much wind to make an RV rock. Since the RV routinely receives 50+ MPH winds on the highway, there is no real danger. Nonetheless, being in Kansas makes everything more scary! I’ll be glad when I leave “tornado alley” later this week.

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