When I stepped out of the airport, I didn’t see her. We had been texting so I knew she was picking me up. Realizing that her RV was probably too big for the underpass, I went to the outer edge of the pickup area where the hotel shuttles and buses pick up passengers. And there she was! I excitedly waved to get her attention. Rays of desert light flickered off my blue coat warming my flagging arm.
“Welcome to New Mexico”, Alice greeted as I open the RV door, throwing my bag in the back. After hopping in, we were off.
Alice on the Road
A few months earlier, I had received an email from Alice. She knew I was going through a difficult time and thought an adventure would help me heal.
“I’m not sure if you are feeling up to this, but since you told me about the podcast “She Explores” and “Women on the Road” I have been following the adventures of young women, like yourself, traveling and working on the road.
(Women on the road gathering) is the first of its kind of gathering of these women in Taos NM in the later part of October. The thought occurred to me it might be something you would be interested in. Meeting a bunch of inspiring women doing their thing and gathering together to share. I don’t feel I have anything to contribute but I want to see the ideas these young women have for not only their future but the future of society.”
Without thinking twice, I replied with a very enthusiastic “Yes!” Besides the gathering, I thought this trip would be a good time to get to know Alice more. We hadn’t spent too much one on one time and the time we had spent together we were always running from place to place. She had only just wet my thirst with her adventure stories and I wanted more.
“Antartica?” I asked.
“Yes, Antartica. A couple from the cruise got married there.” Alice confirmed while taking a small bite of taco.
“WHAT!?” I explained as my taco fell out of my mouth.
We were having lunch at Ojo Calienta, where we were staying for the night before heading to the women on the road gather in Taos. Alice wanted to share this gem of a spa with me, which has natural hot springs of Arsenic, Lithia, Soda, and Iron. She had stumbled upon this place over 30 years ago and makes an annual trip.
During lunch, Alice was telling me about her around the world trip. I sat listening, taking it all in. It all started when she told her late husband, Royce, that she wanted to go on a round the world cruise. Telling him to quit his job and pack his bags. (I love Alice!!) Her cousin, Jo Nan, was coming along as well. Alice reminisced about the 120 (ish) day cruise, which she told me was not a fancy tourist cruise that we all think of. There were only 400 people aboard and it was a single hull ship.
Alice told me about the ship workers patrolling each night armed with guns, watching for pirates as they traveled across the Indian Ocean. And then about going to an island, I think Easter Island, to have a picnic with the locals. When the passengers were to be picked up, the boat never showed. Arriving after dark as the waves rolled so rough that it was almost impossible to get everyone on board via a single ladder. In the dark of night, they had to jump towards the ship as the waters crashed up and down.
As the day grew to night, Alice continued. I became intoxicated with adventure. I couldn’t get enough.
GOOOOOOOOD Morning Alice!!!
The next morning, I sleepily crawled outta my tent and rapped on Alice’s RV door. As her bright and spunky travel dog, Truffles, greeted me “Good Morning”, Alice greeted me with hot coffee and breakfast. And the stories continued. Once again, I sat listening excitedly.
“I’ve always wanted to canoe the boundary waters near Canada,” was Alice’s introduction to the day’s tales. She overheard a man talking about his annual trips with the boy scouts canoeing the boundary waters. Without even knowing the man, Alice immediately went up to him and asked if he would take a group of her friends on a guided canoe trip. He said “yes”.
When Alice showed up with her group of all female friends, their guide had arranged for them to travel to the start by Seaplane. This would prove to be an epic adventure. Strapping the canoes to the plane they took off, only landing for a brief moment on the water to get their passports checked at the Canadian boarder.
Throughout breakfast, Alice told me about learning how to canoe, getting lost, and the night that lightning struck boulders in their camp.
“I’ve never seen lighting strikes with sparks before.” She spent the night watching the show, wondering if one would hit her. Would this be the end? If so, what a way to go.
“I’m talking too much.” Alice said once she finished her story.
“NO! I love it. Thank you for sharing. I could listen to you all day.” I said, hoping she’d share more.
After breakfast we packed up, then headed to Taos and Alice continued to indulge me with more stories.
Park Ranger Alice
“Casey, I became a volunteer Park Ranger at 45!” She blurted out knowing I was having concerns with my age. I turned 40 this year and began to feel the adventure clock ticking.
Alice decided, at age 45, she wanted to spend the summer as a Park Ranger. With the support of her husband, Royce, Alice applied.
Being so far from her Houston home and with the little knowledge she had of the area made Glacier National Park her first choice. She found that the parks needed 2 people, but had 3000 applicants.
“I told Royce that I was going to be one of the 2.” And she was! Alice had a few months to prep and then she was off.
Once Alice arrived at the Park, she started to face an endless amount of challenges. Her first day hiking, was in the snow and Alice wore only what she had, sneakers. The 20 something Rangers blew her off, thinking she wouldn’t make it, but she persevered with her trademark tenacity. Afterwards, the 20 somethings were so impressed that they took Alice to buy a proper pair of boots.
The challenges continued throughout the summer. Alice had to learn everything she could about the park, including the unique plants and animals in the area, as well as the vast trails. She kept at it. And even though she broke almost every rule, Alice became a great Park Ranger. She built up her endurance for hiking and knowledge. By the end of the season Alice was voted Volunteer Park Ranger of the season!
I asked Alice, “Why do you think they chose you? Out of 3000 applicants.”
“I was told for three reasons. #1: my age. Since I was in my 40’s, I would be able to relate with the older visitors. They had plenty of 20 somethings who moved fast on the trails, but they wanted someone who would take their time to enjoy each flower or animal along the way.” Alice replied.
#2: Being in Real Estate. Alice was a real estate agent, which meant she knew how to talk with people and control a group.
#3: Video work. At the time Alice was doing something pretty progressive. She was filming the homes she showed to client. For training purposes, the parks wanted her to bring her video camera to film the Park Ranger talks and demos.
Since the moment I met her, I have been impressed with Alice, but now, I was in awe.
As we continued our scenic drive, my thoughts went back to what Alice had said in her email:
“I don’t feel I have anything to contribute but I want to see the ideas these young women have for not only their future but the future of society.”
“Ha!” I thought. Alice has so much to contribute. The weekend hadn't even started and I was already learning so much from Alice.
Adventure comes in all shapes, sizes, and ages. Alice helped to open my eyes to that. I wasn’t too old, not even near it. Thanks to Alice, I know realize I have many more adventures ahead of me.
Alice’s 75th birthday is Sunday and I hope that one day that I grow up to be as adventurous as Alice. A fearless woman who dreams, dares, does, and then passes it to others.
Thank you, Alice.
happy Birthday, my dear friend!!!