29 November 2013

Such a fine sight to see


(Today's guest blog is by Jone Bosworth, a colleague of my sister's from when they both were in the world of child welfare policy. Jone now runs Incourage Leading, a women's leadership development firm. She sent this blog to me unsolicited, knowing that my hands were full with certain family issues. I so appreciated it. It’s a loving story of friendship that seems especially appropriate the day after Thanksgiving --Melinda)

Maureen and I took an October road trip from Nevada to Nebraska in my old Mustang convertible. Our plans were loose:  head east, see every possible thing we could, and arrive in six days so that Maureen could make a doctor’s appointment.  

Friends for nearly 30 years, people who love us get a little worried when Maureen and I travel together.  Once, we climbed to the top of Wyoming’s Mount Washington. When we came down, we couldn’t find our car. We’d been talking intently, sped up when we spotted what we thought looked like bear scat, and walked down the wrong side of the mountain. 


That time, a professional bull rider let us jump in the back of his pick-up truck with his saddle and gear. He took us around the mountain to our car and we found a place to buy coffee and pie, the only thank you he’d accept. Sitting on a lodge’s wraparound porch late into the night, our rescue cowboy regaled us late with tales of the rodeo circuit. 

On another trip together, Maureen’s family held a Catholic Mass when she didn’t call home for a week. We were on Carriacou, an island in the Grenadines. It was before cellphones became appendages and honestly, we tried to call home the first day but couldn’t seem to make the one local payphone work. Somehow, island life consumed us and checking in slipped our minds. 

This road trip, we vowed we’d be more responsible. This time, the trip held more meaning because Maureen is legally blind and her eyesight is rapidly diminishing. 

Most of the trip, we lost ourselves in America’s beauty and dreamed out loud of being painters who could capture it. Maureen pulled out her iPad to record what we convinced ourselves were great potential song lyrics, like the “Roll for Freedom” sign in Tonopah, Nevada. It actually read “Roll Dice for Free Room” and we began to question my eyesight too.  
   
We snapped photos on the Extraterrestrial Highway in Nevada and wondered if the Ufologists’ suspicions might be right, that anything seemed possible that eerie stretch. 

Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park is definitely one of the 10 places you must see before you die. We recommend you stop for Aunt Sue’s wild berry pie in Duck Creek to fortify yourself for hiking the Hoodoos.

Meandering through Monument Valley and the Navajo Nation, we experienced the feeling of joyful smallness, of nature and time and peoples who came before. When we saw a sign reading “Coral Sand Dunes” we detoured 50 miles to prove to ourselves that pink sand really exists and that although we’ve now hit middle-age, we still have it in us to take the road less travelled. 

At one point, our GPS screeched “unnamed road” for so long that it froze. That happened on Indian 2, a road through Hopi Lands that gets you faster to Winslow, Arizona than U.S. highways will. On Route 66, Winslow’s corner is a mandatory stop; we sang "Take It Easy" alongside the Jackson Browne statute on the corner he and the Eagles made famous.  

By day five we’d hit the gorgeous Turquoise Trail in New Mexico. Stopping in Madrid, an artists’ colony with a population 350, we got invited to the Halloween party that night. Regrettably, in our new responsible traveler mode we decided we had to press on. Late that night outside Last Chance, Colorado, a 14-point buck leapt out and bounded across the highway. Thankfully, it wasn’t even a near miss.  

The forty-five degree winds made it uncomfortable, but Maureen took my arm and I led her behind the Nebraska Welcome Center by Ogallala to see if the horses pastured there would come to us – they did.

Seventeen miles from home, we heard a strange noise coming from the car. Maureen’s husband and son came to get us and diagnosed the situation:  two tires had gone bad.   
  
When we met in the late 1980s, Maureen mentioned she was having trouble driving at night. A few years later she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. RP is a genetic condition that roughly 100,000 people in the U.S. inherit. RP progressively takes your sight and for Maureen, every day she can still see is precious. 

The Foundation Fighting Blindness, Inc. is an organization dedicated to driving the research that will provide preventions, treatments and cures for people like Maureen who are affected by retinitis pigmentosa. They also focus on macular degeneration, Usher syndrome, and the entire spectrum of retinal degenerative diseases. 




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