Bob and Callae didn’t know it, but in 2007 their family was on the precipice of a devastating slide from affluence to bankruptcy. They lived in an upscale Denver neighborhood, were members of a country club and employed a nanny for their two young boys. Read more…
Dan Daniels says there are few things he loves more than a challenge, and this year he’s getting just that. He stands to lose more than $100,000 on his farm near Topeka, Kansas. It’s a story that began a year ago, strangely, in one of the most profitable growing seasons farmers there had ever seen. Read more…
We take our shoes off before entering the Escaper. Not while we go in and out during the day, but when we’re in for the night.
It’s become a ritual: John stands in the doorway, scraping the heel of one foot with the toe of the other until his running shoes land outside. He pushes them underneath the camper a bit, but ever since we started experiencing sudden rainstorms, I’ve been pushing them under a little further along with mine so they don’t get wet.
The ritual is more of a courtesy. After months of wearing the same shoes pretty much every day, well, you can imagine that Lysol doesn’t work as well as it used to. Probably too much information, but that’s life on the road!
And so it went again, our shoes tucked in under the camper while we parked for another night at the Wal-Mart in Butte, Montana. We had spent the day with our parking lot neighbors and new friends, Mike and Jane, whom you will meet in one of our next videos.
It was their 25 year-old Toyota camper that caught John’s eye. There aren’t many of them around and we’re always on the lookout for the Escaper’s long lost twin. They have the New Horizon model. Not quite our twin, but close enough.
Mike and Jane recently moved out of their apartment and into their camper full-time because things are tough these days.
We enjoyed their company as they introduced us to the wonder of grilling out in a Wal-Mart parking lot. People would honk and wave at us as we sat around the mini-grill in folding chairs, eating our hamburgers and hot dogs. Mike and Jane have become regulars around the Wal-Mart.
When the sun set for the evening and the night air chilled, Mike and Jane helped us bring our chairs back to the Escaper. We said goodnight and agreed to see them in the morning before setting off for our next destination.
The parking lot was the fullest we’ve ever seen during one of our Wal-Mart stays. RVs and campers of all shapes, sizes and price ranges with license plates from Iowa, Washington, Louisiana, Texas and beyond. Ours fell somewhere in the middle. I thought we blended in pretty well.
Which was why I was caught completely off guard when I woke up this morning and quietly stepped outside. I reached down to get my sneakers and noticed that our shoes, normally tucked away in our separate pairs were alternated in a row. In one of John’s was a ripped piece of blue-lined loose-leaf paper with “God Bless Safe Travels” written in blue marker. In one of mine was a dollar bill.
I didn’t know what to make of it. Had we unwittingly stumbled upon some traveler’s code? Were we asking for help by leaving our shoes out for the night? Who was this mysterious donor and had they done this for everyone? When I told John, he wondered if maybe someone had mistaken our camper for Mike and Jane’s.
I felt guilty. There are more deserving people who should have received this thoughtful gift, not me.
Mike and Jane aren’t proud about it, but Jane sometimes stands on the side of the road holding a sign asking passers-by for a little help. They only ask when they really need it; they use the money to buy food and gas. We often assume the worst about those people standing there, avoiding eye contact at any cost. Jane doesn’t care if you don’t want to give her money, but she sure appreciates a friendly nod.
I wanted them to have the dollar, but there was no way of slipping it to our new friends without being insulting. I hoped the mysterious donor had left one for them, too. Every little bit helps. Mike and Jane want people to know that – even if all you can afford is a smile and a hello.
Which is why I took the dollar out of my pocket and tucked it in the glove compartment. I’m waiting to see someone standing on the side of the road “flying a sign.” I plan on rolling down the window, looking them in the eye and handing it over along with the handwritten note.
“God Bless Safe Travels.”
No one seems more surprised at what a single piece of paper can do for you than Cory Willingham.
Had he known what life would be like, the constant struggle to find and keep a job that did not require a high school diploma, he might have done things differently. Twenty years ago, Cory dropped out of Highland Park High School in Topeka, Kansas. He says he fell in with the “wrong crowd” and that once his father got sick, he had to get a job to help out. Cory says it went downhill from there. Read more…
We arrived in Eskridge, Kansas on the Maisie DeVore Highway. It said so right on the big green road sign outside of town.
We were on a tour of rural Kansas with friends from Topeka and were prepared to roll right through Eskridge without stopping. It wouldn’t have taken long; the town’s population is about 500. But the decision was made that we should see “Maisie’s Pool,” a few blocks off the main drag.
It would be easy to miss the amazing story here. The facility looks like any other community pool, but the forty year effort behind it is unique and inspiring. Read more…
He got you to eat spinach before it was a “superfood” and if pressed, you’ll admit you said “I yam what I yam” at least once in your life. But if you have no idea what I’m talking about, then I suppose a visit to Chester, Illinois will be for a reason far different from mine. Read more…