The year 1978 was probably the best of my life. Sick of military life, I saved my leave so I could get discharged early. I decided to celebrate my freedom by traveling. After being discharged around Christmas (1977), I spent some time back in South Dakota, visiting relatives and working on a farm for a month. With daily temperatures hovering around -20°, it was the most brutal work I’ve ever done.

What do I mean by brutal? I’d get up at 5 a.m., go outside and walk out into the pasture to fetch the milk cows. Milking them in the extreme cold was grueling; we often sought relief by sticking our hands in a pail of warm water sitting on a heater.

Picking up a fifty-pound bag of feed was even harder when it was frozen to the ground. The cows couldn’t drink until someone chopped a hole in the ice on the water tank.

We didn’t eat breakfast. We didn’t eat anything at all until noon. Then we ate ravcnously.

After lunch, we went out and worked until late in the evening. Then we ate a huge dinner and went to bed. We had no time or energy for anything else.

Westward Bound

I then drove to Bellingham, in northwestern Washington State, and registered for college at Western Washington University. Next, I drove south to California, taking the scenic Hiway 101 along the coast.

In San Francisco, I ate at a Chinese restaurant for the first time in my life. I then flew to Hawaii with a friend. I hate to dismiss Hawaii with a single sentence, but I don’t have many special insights to offer, and I don’t want this to sound like a typical tourist’s travelogue.Aafter
all, I was a tourist.

If you’ve never been to Hawaii, I hope you get to visit some day. Even the island of Oahu is fabulously beautiful. The islands of Maui and Kauaii are widely considered more beautiful still. I flew to Kona, on the west side of the “Big Island” of Hawaii and hiked and backpacked around the south side of the island to Hilo, a beautiful city on the east side of the island.

Around the World

From Hawaii, I flew to Seattle, hitch-hiked to Nebraska, took a train to New York City, then flew to my next destination — Africa.

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