Month Long 500 Box TX/OK Roadtrip
Well, what started out almost as a whim has turned out to be one of my best letterboxing trips yet! Just a few short months ago, I would not have even thought it possible to do such a trip, and still had memories of the time not so very long ago when Arkansas had only one letterbox and how disappointed I had been when I heard that it had gone missing! Not much incentive for going down there I had thought, and kind up gave up on the idea of Southern letterboxing in general for awhile.
What an "eye opener" it was, then, when Silver Eagle of Texas reported recently that he had found 500 boxes, and I took a quick look at the Texas index to find that letterboxing down that way suddenly booming! I had just returned from a Florida trip with a twisted ankle, and was really in no shape to head out on another trip, but Pete convinced me that this was an opportunity not to be missed. As he said, if I left right away, I could drive to Texas in time for the Brazos Bend Gathering, pick him up at the Houston airport a week later, drive up to Oklahoma City for the Cabin Fever Gathering, drop him off at the Little Rock airport, and get 7 news states to letterbox in the process! (Never would I have imagined I'd get 500 boxes in one month that way too!)
Anyway, that's what we did! Pete printed out a bunch of clues and I formulated a rough plan to drive half a day / box half a day, which meant basically picking out one boxing area for each state on the way out: Allentown for PA, Bristol for VA/TN, Birmingham for AL, Hattiesburg for MS, and New Orleans for LA. All the boxes were terrific, but I'd have to say my favorite afternoon was spent doing the Tannehill series at the tail end of the Appalachian chain in AL, and my favorite evening was stumbling onto the "Art in Bloom" exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art when I returned there for some boxes that I had not previously even known about!
And then Texas rolled out the welcome mat with my very first box right at the border Visitor's Center! The Rodeo Gathering was a real "roundup" of smiling faces and fabulous stamps, as we played the wonderful western version of the Clue game designed by the Celtic Lions, and the Gentleman patiently put up with my questions! By the end of the day, I found that I was only a few boxes away from reaching my previous one day letterboxing record of 75 boxes at the Western NY Gathering in November, so several folks thought I should get out and tie that total for Texas! Even when it started lightening and raining, BOXDN and Hummerlady of Louisiana were still out there with me stumbling around in the dark until finally a ranger came out wondering why we would possibly want to be out in that kind of weather at night! BOXDN gave a plausible "lost wallet story", but just when I thought we'd now have to stop my goal one box short, I realized that the last box we'd found contained a hitcher I could count and I'd made my "tie", so I snuggled happily into my cozy car, munching chocolate cake as the heavens crashed down around!
The next morning, after sharing Polish stories with Wes of Kissin' Fishes, as folks got ready to head out, I got Baby Bear and Silver Eagle to help me sort out the huge pile of Houston clues into basic compass points, N, S, E, W and central, so I could figure out which direction to go first. Turned out most of the clues were for inside "the loop" where I didn't really want to go so I decided to mostly stay on the perimeter and only tackle the "inner core" if time permitted before picking up Pete.
First, after a pleasant morning spent hobnobbing with the roseate spoonbills and alligators in the park, I headed SE to Galveston for an afternoon of wine tasting and hurricane history. The next day I scouted the eastern perimeter, visiting San Jacinto National Battlefield and getting a free ferry ride! The third day was for the north side, beautiful cultivated flowers in the arboretum, while the following few days were for the wild bluebonnets and more Texas independence history to the west and south.
Easter Sunday found me at Goliad, site of the infamous massacre which had its anniversary date that very day. I visited the 2 Spanish mission churches there, then headed west to visit 3 Polish churches in Panna Maria, Kosciuszko and Czestochowa (whose original spellings have now been changed for "simplicity"). I felt compelled to leave something there, but not having anything with me then, all I could do was leave a hitchhiker. I was so glad to hear that Corazon picked it up and left a permanent "solidarnosc" box nearby. Thanks.
With only one day left before picking up Pete, I only had time to breeze north from Corpus Christi, but my most remarkable memories are of a tiny little Busy Bee stamp called "Come on Seabiscuit", various cemeteries, and an absolutely enormous live oak by moonlight.
Pete was pleased that I picked him up the next day right on schedule at Hobby airport, presented him with a really neat Brazos Bend T-shirt from BOXDN featuring a bull and a Texan about to battle it out over a letterbox, and then took him to "Pearadise"! Afterwards I showed him a few of my favorite boxes in the inner city, including Team King's "Tribute to England #1" and "Murder by the Book", that I'd managed to "sneak into" when going in one evening for some international folk dancing in the museum district.
That evening we feasted on Texas BBQ, and had waffles shaped like Texas the next morning at our motel - a warm welcome start for our trip together. First stop on that day's agenda was "Batter Up", to stamp in a Boston Red Sox hitchhiker that Pete had brought out from RI to share with me before sending it right back on its way to New England in time for opening day! Then I spent a little too much time taking Pete to boxes I'd already visited, so we got "behind schedule" and ended up camping along the Lone Star Trail, which was fine because then I got to leave a box there. Only problem is it's just got an emergency star shaped stamp of the type we do for Valley Quest. RTRW actually carved a stamp that looks somewhat like Silver Eagle (although I'm not sure who it is supposed to be!) and maybe I could send that stamp to someone to plant in that "start of the trail" box for us, if anyone is willing?
Anyway, next day after some hiking in the Houston National Forest, we visited the Austin house shaped like a steamboat in Huntsville, the Kolache Factory in Ennis, and then had no time left for visiting Dallas or Fort Worth! I did manage to find my 7000th boxes at "Crazy Christmas" in Arlington, then we shot up through Richardson to leave a "Dallas Cowboys" box for which the Celtic Lions have graciously agreed to find a safer home. We had a delicious lunch (but found no box) at Uncle Julio's, and then hightailed it up to Oklahoma, where we left another microbox, "Pooh Points the Way", at the welcome center right at the border.
Next day was another biggie: The Oklahoma Gathering! We found ourselves scuttling all around that day from dawn until dark and ended up with 55 boxes altogether, thanks to the hard work of Mandy Bennett, the Happy Days, and many others! We were happy to get a Road Less Traveled casting from Sticker and Thumbprint Bandit, and a lovely Cherokee Rose ornament from the Happy Days, but most of all we appreciated being able to stay with the Happy Days when it turned out that all of the motels in the city were filled due some other events. That gave us an extra day to spend in OK City and find the very same restaurant that we'd eaten at on our anniversary 10 years ago earlier! At the time, I'd been chagrined to find I'd gone to the wrong station and my Mongolian grill turned into Vietnamese soup, but this time I did it right and got both Vietnamese soup and Mongolian grill.
So finally, after leaving behind a stamp of Euripedes carved by RTRW as a renamed "Cherokee Rose Man" (because his wrinkles reminded us of the contours on all the Cherokee roses we found out there!), we headed east to Arkansas, and our last new letterboxing state of the trip. I'd promised Pete that if he came back with me as far as Little Rock, he could get a stamp from that state, too, but then it started to look like that wasn't going to happen. First box we looked for in Fort Smith - missing. Second box we looked for in Petit Jean State Park - missing. I had to get Pete to the airport that afternoon and it was almost noon. We didn't know if we'd have enough time for the Pinnacle - having climbed it many years before and knowing it took more than a few minutes - but we decided to go for it and glad we did! Not only did we find both boxes at the rocky top, but we also left a nicely carved rock climbing stamp by RTRW right near where the rocks first start getting rough for those who might not quite feel like climbing the trail up that last, long steep pitch! Then after dropping Pete off a the airport, I dropped off one more microbox called a "Splash of Color" at what would otherwise have been a rather colorless stretch of highway - with no letterbox in ANY direction for about 100 miles!
The next day I basically breezed across Tennessee, passing through many thunderstorms, so that I could get over into some of my old haunts in the Smokies and along the Appalachian Trail. I was especially glad to be able to rescue the Campbell Folk School box which had almost gotten crushed when an old bench collapsed on it, and to find that the first post Smithsonian box in the US was still sitting pretty on the side of Max Patch! That got me to thinking, Mt Scorpia (Lucy) who had carved a stamp to replace the one a geocacher had taken from that box, was also one of the very few early planters in those mountains and in Florida. I didn't know where she lived, but I though it would be really nice to meet her if at all possible, so overcoming my usual shyness about such things as I wound my way down miles of dirt roads from Max Patch through Lemon Gap, I finally got to a pay phone near Del Rio, and asked Pete to e-mail her saying I'd be at the NC Arboretum Tuesday evening, if she wanted to try to meet up. Turns out she lives almost an hour away, but just happened to be coming to a Volksmarch meeting that very same evening at Ryan's (my favorite "Southern comfort food " buffet) just 2 miles down the road from there! Well, I guess some things are just meant to be! I ended up having a lovely visit with Lucy up in the mountains, went off for a walk in the slushy rain on a luscious balsam scented Roan Mt. then came back to a cup of Lucy's delicious hot cocoa! Now I'm already looking forward to going back down to visit with Pete this winter, when we hope to have a little more time for boxing!
But now my month's trip was nearing its end. I merely had time to "graze" my way across North Carolina, stopping at various parks and cemeteries where folks like Thomas Wolfe, O. Henry, Charles Kuralt and Daniell Boone's parents were buried. I got to do some international folk dancing again in Raleigh, and then dropped off one last hitcher that I'd almost forgotten about - the "Smiling Pumpkin" - at the site of the former Redfield Prophecy box in the beautiful Duke Gardens of Durham. (See message #50284 on the main talk list.) I do hope someone will have rescued it by now, but please let us know!
Anyway, it seems that I slipped over this trip's 500 mark almost as easily as I slipped back over the border in VA! Everything else on the way home was just icing on the cake (or maybe melted chocolate Easter bunnies 2 of which did get saved for Pete! :-) ) I had another nice visit with the Doubtful Guests in northern VA, where we met up with the Gallant Rogue in Fountainhead Park, and later found a new troll lying under a bridge! Then in MD and PA I found nearly 100 more boxes in just a couple of days, before showing up late on Talking Turtle's doorstep in NY to pickup the box of Double Dutch Girl Scout cookies that I'd earned by doing the entire "Cookie Caper" series in one crazy, rainy, snowy, slushy outrageous day on my way down to Florida just a few months back! That box of cookies pretty much got me home before I finally collapsed from exhaustion! What a long strange trip it's been and thanks again to everyone along the way who helped to make it fun by planting all those far out boxes!
Wanda from RI
P127 F7432 X891
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