A girl walks in to a bar…and comes out with a path to turning her dream into a reality. When Adele Amos met Michelle Tang to network using their mutual connections in the production end of television commercials, she never thought she would find a route to fulfilling a dream of hers. As the two strangers chatted, Adele mentioned the idea of dodging the high cost of renting in the Los Angeles area by purchasing an Airstream trailer and parking it wherever she happened to be working. Michelle, a hair and makeup artist, surprised her by saying she had a 1976 Argosy in the Catskills of New York that she had used for just that purpose and would sell it for just $1500.00. Even though the trailer was 2500 miles away, Adele said yes to the purchase on the spot. She knew she wanted it and would just need to find someone to take 4 weeks off work and go get it with her.
Enter Cindy Gaines, Adele’s childhood friend and neighbor. Cindy and Adele have what could be described as a “sump pump” friendship; it’s there even though you might not acknowledge it every day and it kicks in when needed. The two grew up in the same neighborhood in Portland, Oregon and went all through school together circling each other’s social spheres. They were friends but not best friends, although Adele often visited Cindy’s family’s lake house in southwest Washington. After college when Adele was visiting home, they reconnected and got to know each other better. They formed the kind of friendship that picks up where it left off each time they see each other. Cindy, as an only child, had been given the gift of travel by her professor parents. They used their discretionary income on experiences. They took their daughter all over the world and when she was in 4th grade they took her out of school for five months and traveled all through the US and Mexico in a motorhome. Cindy had been infused with wanderlust and she and Adele, who also traveled stateside and internationally with her parents and three siblings, shared a mutual love for adventure. When Adele realized that she wanted a friend to travel with her to pick up the trailer, Cindy was the first person she called.
Cindy, who works in a family business that gives her job flexibility, didn’t hesitate when Adele proposed the idea. They began to construct a vision in their minds of what the trip would look like. They knew they wanted to make it an adventure and not just a race to the coast to get the trailer and a race back home. The journey would include revisiting their favorite childhood places and adding new memories on top of old. Adele and Cindy wanted to see as many national parks, monuments and quirky roadside attractions as they could.
The plan was to stay off the Interstates and see the towns and drive the roads that were part of people’s everyday lives. They were building in time to wander and throw a dart at the map and see where it would take them. The two friends were both 2 years shy of turning 45 and they designated their trip, the “Shadysideof45” tour! A friend who heard about their trip dubbed them the “shady ladies” and they spent the whole trip referencing that tag line and laughing about it. Cindy, a natural born “I” dotter and “T” crosser was not comfortable at first with the idea of just getting in the car and driving with no reservations. Adele convinced her that it was the only way to do it and she decided to break from her normal “plan ahead” mentality and go with Adele’s free spirited approach.
Once Adele had paid for the “Argy” she arranged for a friend of Michelle’s to take it to a reputable trailer dealership to have some work done.
New propane lines and tanks along with new tires and a freshly sandblasted and painted frame awaited them in New York, but in the meantime, they would tent camp and stay in hotels along the way. Adele and Cindy were so excited on the August morning they left that they missed their exit for Ft. Hood. They immediately decided they would go to John Day, Oregon instead. For the next three weeks they switch backed across the northwestern states hitting the high points. First up was the Three Rivers Motel in Lowell, Idaho where the Clearwater, Lochsa and Selway Rivers all converge.
A favorite memory of Cindy’s is arriving there just before dark and getting a fire set up and playing a board game by the light of a Coleman lantern on a make shift table. Next was a visit to Glacier National Park in Montana with a sidebar on the way to the old mining town of Garnett, Montana.
The eleven miles of dirt road was just a bonus from their perspective. When they saw the town on the map they were anxious to get to Glacier but they decided on a “Sasquatch” and “Big Foot” coin toss. They had a souvenir coin from home with “Sasquatch” on one side and “Big Foot” on the other. A Sasquatch turned heads up would mean they would get off the beaten path and do the impulsive thing. A Big Foot coin toss would mean they stick to the plan and stay on schedule. Sasquatch won and they never regretted it. The visit to Garnett was one of their favorite sidebars. They headed to Yellowstone and the Great Prismatic Springs, Old Faithful and then Cody, Wyoming.
They both agreed they could have stayed in Yellowstone for a month but they had to move on to Mt. Rushmore and Devil’s Tower in South Dakota. Leaving the arid plains behind them they crossed over in to Minnesota and then on to La Crosse, Wisconsin where they took the ferry across the Great Lake to Michigan. They crossed over into Ontario, Canada because they wanted to see Niagara Falls “from the good side.” When they crossed back in to the US they were in upstate NY and within striking distance of picking up the “Argy.”
The ladies arrived to find “Argy” in good road shape but dirty, so they unloaded her and scrubbed her down from top to bottom. They stayed a day or two on Michelle’s property in NY and did the NYC tourism musts. After leaving NY they headed through Pennsylvania and down Highway 81 South toward Tennessee. The rolling hills of Virginia were a stark difference from the landscapes of the Northern Plains and they relished the varied countryside. Cindy, who is a fiber artist dying wool and weaves, loved being in Gatlinburg, the Artisans Capital of Tennessee. She visited the many shops and arts centers around that area while Adele did a two-day side trip to visit a friend in South Carolina. When they met up again they began the westward trek on a more southern route going through Arkansas where they visited Hot Springs National Park and on to Oklahoma where they learned much about the many Indian tribes that once lived there. In New Mexico they saw tarantulas crossing the road that were literally so large they couldn’t believe they were spiders until they saw them up close. Natural Bridge Monument and the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado were favorite stops on the way home.
Adele and Cindy visited the Salt Flats of Utah and were headed to Capital Reef National Park with one week left on their trip when Adele got a call for a job in Portland. She would have to leave immediately though in order to say yes to that paycheck. Being self-employed has its perks, like going on an eleven thousand mile, thirty nine day road trip, but it also demands that you sometimes drop everything and take a job that makes all that possible. Adele and Cindy would have to cut their trip short. Adele dropped Cindy off in St. George, Utah where she was able to get a flight to visit friends in New Mexico and Adele drove straight back to Portland and was at work within days.
Their adventure of a lifetime ended abruptly but still produces laugh out loud memories. The two friends are often reminded of silly things along the way that only the two of them would “get.” Any reference to “shady ladies” always makes them both laugh. Adele was recently on a road trip and looked up at a billboard that made her pull over and take a picture to send to Cindy. The billboard was an advertisement for the “shady ladies brothel!” Their inside jokes are endless now. I asked both Cindy and Adele separately what their favorite moment of the trip was and unbeknownst to each other they both gave the same answer. Hiking to the top of a large hill to see the Great Prismatic Springs in Yellowstone and just being filled with wonder upon seeing the incredible beauty. They both got to experience what they set out to do, see the side of the American landscape from the view of those that live there. They didn’t set out to strengthen the bonds of friendship and make lifetime memories but they did that as well. Reflecting on the trip they find it amazing that they did all they did, but Cindy says they want to do it again and hit all the spots they didn’t get to the first time. I think these two shady ladies have a lot more traveling ahead of them. They have all the key ingredients to make it happen: wanderlust, compatibility, flexible work schedules and a vintage “Argy!”