Where There Is a Road

Utah & Colorado & Wyoming & South Dakota & Freddie

Reality continues to ruin my life.

– Bill Watterson

Between March 31 and April 15, 2022

It is mid-September and Kurt and I are preparing to depart again, it occurred to me that I never told my homecoming tale from spring 2022. I can’t have loose ends.

Monument Valley

We were in Abiquiu and drove for a day to camp in the Navajo National Monument. This year, unlike in 2020, Kurt and I did not wake up to a park ranger kicking us out as the country slammed its doors around us. That year it was the only place on the way home we found to stop. This year I was just shocked awake by the Bean dumping a bubble wrapped cow skull down on my head.

Kurt and I were able to drive the main, unpaved dusty red road through Monument Valley. We stopped to eat at a grouping of buildings, shared lunch with chickens and a large black tomcat (once I determined that he wasn’t Bean escaped from the BGW).

A large black tomcat waits for his fry bread offering in Monument Valley. Photography and travel writing by marquette Michigan visual artist Taryn Okesson.

People, I’m assuming Navajo but I didn’t check, were set up in different pull offs to sell jewelry, dreamcatchers and other souvenirs. As we drove past a man struggled at his corral with some spicy mustangs. The land was surreal majestic, forget every photograph you’ve ever seen. Electric tangy oranges against blue skies and bright green scrub. This is not a white girl instagrammer land, no matter how many photographs of carbon copy beach blond girls in cut-offs you see sitting on the highway dividing line. The ‘grammars insist on sitting/standing in the highway, in oncoming traffic, each taking the exact same quintecential photograph.

I had Kurt stop along the fence line for the horses. While we were distracted, Bean had squeezed out a cracked window, then proceeded to exit the vehicle. I turned around in time to catch site of him slipping beneath BGW.


We traveled a long way winding through the western side of Utah and we saw a lot in a short period of time. Road of the Ancients. Bridges National Monument. Gooseneck State Park. Moab. At some point I picked up a virus, a snotty one. Sometime after I lit Beans tail on fire and before we made it to South Dakota the symptoms slammed down onto me, hard.


We found a quiet place to stay in the Piceance-East Douglas HMA. The mustangs we saw on our way in were shy, but on our way out the next morning I was able to catch a band galloping across a field. This herd, unfortunately is one of the ones that is, or has, faced a helicopter roundup to bring their numbers down from 800 to 100. (PZP is the better way, write to your representatives).


Or, Don’t Play Oregon Trail With Your Camper

When I realized that just over the border into Wyoming was a wild Horse Management Area (HMA) I was thrilled to stay a night. Have an adventure. The first band we met was entirely too used to people and followed the sound of the truck. They walked directly up to me and the livestock grate separating us.

A mustang stands on a dirt road in Wyoming. Travel writing and travel photography by Marquette MI visual artist Taryn Okesson.

The following day someone, me, had the idea to drive through horse backcountry to get to a place called Adobe Town. And we did this towing the camper, like you do. When the nice grated road disappeared and turned to a two-track rut and then it crossed a large dry wash, we started joking about losing the oxen to the river. Another smaller wash, another oxen. A huge lump, broke an axel.

Except we did. We broke the leaf spring again.

Kurt discovered it when looking at an impassable gully. We turned around and limped towards a camping spot we spied earlier. It overlooked a small valley where pronghorns, elk and several bands of wild horses were roaming and coming in to water. Kurt wasted no time, he dropped me and the camper off and drove off to civilization for parts.

Then we faced a choice. Hole up in place. (My personal favorite since I was one-hundred percent sick by this time). Drive north with a spring snow storm coming or head south and walk the line behind the tornado spawning storm cells. I begged for North and to hunker down somewhere for the storm. No thank you on tornados.

The Badlands, South Dakota

Kurt parked the camper on a familiar dry camp spot outside of the Badlands National Park alongside a cliff facing the vista. It was challenging to care with a head draining and pounding.

I had another reason to want to be done with it, my dog. Over the winter her appetite changed. We explored different foods and talked about her options (no worries reader, I am an informed pet owner). On the way home she’d barely eat at all. At this point she was on the bland diet of chicken and rice exclusively. I made her an appointment. Once home Freddie was bouncy and happy.

Three Bison graze in the Badlands National Park, spring 2022, South Dakota. Photography and travel writing by marquette Michigan visual artist Taryn Okesson.

About a week after arriving home I woke up in the night and found Freddie laying awkwardly on a pile of laundry. I lifted her head to slide a makeshift pillow under, but instead she got up to follow me to my side of the bed, where I found her expired in the morning. The ground was thawed enough, we were able to burry her nearby. Kurt and I learned recently that two of Freddie’s four other litter mates also passed in the last year of cancer▪️

A favorite image of my dog Freddie tasting flowers. Photography and travel writing by marquette Michigan visual artist Taryn Okesson.

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