Carolina: Cruising Past 70: There’s Absolutely No Reason for Breaking Rules When We Travel

Thursday, July 26, 2018

There’s Absolutely No Reason for Breaking Rules When We Travel


It’s just for a photo, it’s just a tiny piece, it’ll just be for a second. Those are some excuses I tell myself when I was new in this game of going from place to place.

Once, we were on the Alaska Highway, just a week after starting to RV in 2009. We had just left the one-of-a-kind Signpost Forest in the first big town on the legendary highway, Watson Lake. There we bought a plank of wood, painted the words, “Bill and Carol, Pittsburg, Ks/Manila, Phil. 8pm 8/8/08” and posted it in a space we could find as the 67,000th post in that “forest.” After we left the town, on the way to Whitehorse, the biggest city on the Highway, between Upper Liard and Rancheria, we saw rocky embankments that had many names of people assembled from rocks found in the area.


I was still in the “leaving signs mode” so I pleaded with Bill to stop. He did but we found a sign that said, “Take nothing but pictures. Kill nothing but time. Leave nothing but footprints.” I wondered who put it there. Ignoring it, I started to collect rocks and began to form the letters of our names. Bill followed me. After a while, we realized what a time-consuming task it was and we left our opus in two letters: B & C-not British Columbia, not before Christ, but Bill and Carol! Later, I learned why the sign was put there. It was to prevent the situation when so many people would displace so many rocks that the purpose for which the embankment was made, to protect the road from the rushing snow/ice, would be lost. It was early in our traveling career so I forgave myself.

A week later, as we were approaching Valdez, Alaska, I remarked, “Gosh, the glaciers are puny around here. They are just tiny patches of white.” A few minutes later, as our 24-foot Class C RV was negotiating a bend on the road, a white glistening hill was looming larger and larger before us. It was Worthington, a 113-acre road-accessible glacier on Richardson Highway. Bill was ecstatic and proceeded to climb the mountain of ice. I was scared. I told him, just come back with a sample of the glacier. There I was again, foolishly breaking the golden rule for travelers, for a block of ice that will anyway not last and just occupy space in our RV’s tiny freezer!

Worthington Glacier

 But after that, I became a very good traveler. I followed rules. Until last year when an opportunity so irresistible presented itself, I could not obey anymore. We were in Australia to babysit my youngest grandson. My daughter told us of Philip Island where there was a colony of the world’ s littlest penguins, about a foot tall, that took a nightly parade home to their burrows from a day of swimming in the ocean to feed on its bounty. And it was just a one and a half hour drive from Melbourne!

We were in our seats at 4:35 pm, after the walk down the long boardwalk from the Visitor Center.  It was a cold night, the temperature hovered in the low 40s, but we were kind of protected where we sat so there was no wind chill. The ranger explained that the penguins wait for dark before they come in because they are afraid the birds of prey may notice them. Also, they wait for each other about a hundred meters from shore and form a group, for more security, before they do come in.

littlest penguins in the world

The previous night they came in at 5:35 pm. They were expected to arrive at the same time. At about 5:30 pm, we were all hushed in anticipation. The excitement started to build when people spotted about two or three grouping together. They waited for more. At 5:49 pm, the group had become eight and they bravely waddled into the space between the two viewing platforms. No photography is allowed for the Penguins' sake but I couldn’t help it. It was the cutest sight. I took a furtive shot. 

Then the ones who did not swim to feed came out of their burrows, unafraid to join those who did. They were all around the boardwalk! We waddled with the penguins as we made our way up.  I could not help myself and took a few more furtive shots. I was going to go on with my crime, until a ranger approached me to say, “The penguins really do not do well with the light coming from cameras.” I felt so ashamed. There I was nearing seventy and I could not follow rules.

One thing is certain…they are not made to be broken. If they were, that's when a mess like the tons of plastic that float on the Pacific Ocean and kill aquatic life happens.  Rules are made for a good reason. There’s absolutely no justification for breaking them when you travel.; in fact, even when you are not traveling. No reason is good enough.