Road report: Colorado to Arkansas to Colorado…

Richard and I are back in Colorado again, having rolled into Denver yesterday afternoon in time for the first of his pre-infusion tests. We had driven to northwest Arkansas to visit his 94-year-old mother, Miss Alice, his sister, niece and family, and his younger brother. It’s been a year since he saw his mother, so it was time.

It’s June, so it was HOT in that part of the world. Accommodating Richard’s every-two-week infusion schedule plus traveling during the part of the cycle when he has the least fatigue left us just six days to make the trip. It’s a long drive, almost a thousand miles each way, which meant for more road time than visiting time.

Here’s our trip by the numbers:
Days on the road: 4
Days visiting family: 2
Miles driven: 2,184
Total hours driving with the car a/c turned on: 35
Coolest outside temperature: 71 degrees F (Salida, Colorado)
Hottest outside temperature: 104 degrees F (Buffalo, Oklahoma)
Highest elevation on trip: 7,888 feet (Westcliffe, Colorado)
Lowest elevation: 1,322 feet (Springdale, Arkansas)
Number of major wildfires driven by: 2
Number of bird species seen (mostly from a moving car): 43
Most spectacular bird: scissor-tailed flycatcher (I wish I had a photo!)
Number of wildflower species seen (it’s a drought year on the southern Plains): 32
Number of roadkill armadillos: I lost count after four dozen  :~(
Best Arkansas excursion: A walk to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (under construction near Bentonville) through a gorgeous wooded ravine filled with birdsong and wildflowers (temp: 91 degrees in the shade)
Most poignant stop along the road: Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site (between Sheridan Lake and Eads on the plains of eastern Colorado)
Total road-meals eaten: 9
Meals prepared using organic and local food brought from home: 7
Ice cream sandwiches and bars consumed: 6
Fast-food meals: 0

Highlights from the trip in photos:

That’s the Duckett wildfire, burning near Westcliffe in Colorado’s Wet Mountain Valley. I shot the photo from about five miles away, as the fire was making an early afternoon run, driven on southwesterly winds. (The white stuff below the clouds is smoke from the fire, having burned about 4,000 acres at that point. Almost a week later, it’s not out yet, but close to being contained.)

The most surprising wildflower was the bush morning-glory in the photo above (Ipomea leptophylla), a perennial relative of common morning-glory vines that’s native to the southern Great Plains. The severe drought in that part of the world meant that the landscape was brown for several hundred miles from northeastern New Mexico all through the Oklahoma Panhandle until central Oklahoma. Brown, that is, except for bush morning-glory, springing from its huge taproot to make a bright spot on the crisp and dusty prairie.




The three photos above show why we made the trip. In the top photo, Richard and his younger brother, Mike, share a laugh in front of Little Bread Company, the best breakfast place in Springdale. Next, Richard’s mom, Miss Alice, with great-grandson Oliver (and Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar, for you fans of kids’ books). Last, but definitely not least, Richard’s sister, Letitia, his mom, and Richard enjoying family time.


This lark sparrow hopping along at the trail through the prairie at Sand Creek Massacre site was the most cooperative bird of the whole trip. It hung out nearby for me to shoot its photo, all the while singing its lovely wheezy, trilling song–very much the sound of the prairie along with meadowlarks’ melodic notes.


This little painted box turtle was smack in the middle of a gravel county road, making its slow way across. When I stopped and gave it a ride to safety in the prairie on the side of the road,  it rewarded me by emptying its bladder (that sudden spray of liquid aims to startle a predator into dropping the turtle, and thus saving it from becoming dinner). My flip-flops have now been christened with turtle pee. Good thing it’s sterile (isn’t it?).

We’re pretty exhausted from the trip, but we’ve survived Richard’s testing, his brain MRI, and a morning helping my dad. Tonight we’re relaxing in our motel room, resting up for tomorrow’s oncology consult, wherein we’ll learn if the chemo is making progress in slowing the glioblastoma that’s been rapidly commandeering Richard’s right brain.

Exhausted or not, it’s good to be back in sight of the Rockies again. We’ll be home in our own valley tomorrow night if all goes well. That will be balm for my very weary soul…