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Letters of the Week

We don't know about you, but travel always makes us want to write long juicy letters to everyone we know. Maybe it's bragging rights, maybe it's a burst of poetic inspiration from seeing the Taj Mahal, but one way or another, suitcases and sunsets in strange places turn us into letter-writing fools. So, if it turns out you're the same way....be sure to include us in your list of people you just have to drop a line to. Don't worry, you will make us jealous...but hopefully we'll also be inspired by your adventures.

Want to see what other Savvy visitors have to say? Read our letters of the week, and be sure to tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you!

June 8, 2001

Cross Country with Chronic Fatigue: The All-True Tales of the Savvy Straggler

Dear Rudy,

On a recent show, you asked to hear about memorable road trips. Well, here's mine.

In late summer of 1999, I set out to drive from Vermont to Oregon to see my daughter, who was expecting her second child. I've always wanted to take a leisurely trip across the continent to see the sights, so I was very excited to be making this trip in my ancient-but-trusty 1988 Subaru station wagon, with a very large cat and a small dog as companions. Granted, lots of people drive cross-country, so that part isn't too unusual.

But this trip was unusual in other ways.

You see, I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), and I don't have a lot of stamina. A solo journey across the country is a big deal for me. I knew it would take several weeks because I can only drive a few hours each day, and sometimes I need to rest for several days between legs. I was nervous when I started out, but I made it! And I had a blast!

I drove the entire way almost entirely on back roads: through Ontario, crossing the border back into the states, threading my way through the Midwest and plains states, up along the Rockies to central Alberta, and back down the other side of the Rockies to the Columbia River.

I was on a veeeeery tight budget -- so no motels. I camped and stayed with friends. With the help of AAA camping guides and great suggestions from locals, I found great free or very cheap campsites. And I have lots of wonderful memories ... like the loggers in Ontario who showed me their favorite camping spot in a private forest; a friend in Wisconsin who shared her cabin in the woods with me for several weeks; a moose fighting under a full moon in the mountains of Wyoming; and the little coffee shop smack dab in the middle of Montana where I spent a great morning chatting with locals.

But what made the journey really special was this: Until this trip, I'd not met any of the people I stayed with in person. They were people I had met and gotten to know through my online CFS support group. Each of them also has CFS, and meeting them was delightful.

During my trip, every few days, I called another daughter in Vermont to let her know where I was. She emailed the news to one of my online friends, who then posted it to the group. I was astonished to find that hundreds of people were following my travels!

When I stayed with my friends, I used their Internet connections to post updates. That's where you come in, Rudy. Somewhere along the line, someone dubbed me "The Savvy Straggler." And from that point on, that's how I signed my reports.

I spent the winter with my daughter in Oregon, and the next spring, I drove back across the continent, this time going down through California and Nevada to the Southwest and meandering my way catty-corner across the states to Vermont. I encountered cold, drenching rains in the Oregon Cascades, earthquakes at the Grand Canyon, wildfires in Arizona, blizzards in the Colorado Rockies, and intense thunderstorms in the Midwest. This time it was a different kind of trip!

Would I do it again? Yup.

I might have to win the lottery first, though. Next time, I want a little motor home. When the weather is bad, it's really hard to sleep in the back of a station wagon with a rampaging cat!

Dayle Ann Stratton
The Savvy Straggler


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