My Trip through the Heartland

I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to post this week, because I’ve been on the road and haven’t had the time to line-up one of my usual adventures. But as seems to be the case more often than not, my everyday life turned into an adventure. Does this happen to everyone, or just me? And if I’m in the minority, is it luck or a curse?

My trip took me to Kansas and Arkansas, with an unexpected nine-hour drive through Oklahoma.  We (I was reunited with the talented photographer Jeff Allen who you may have met here last year) drove all over Kansas, literally, and met some pretty cool Kansans, including Miss Kansas 2013 herself, Theresa Vail. You may have heard about Theresa around the time of the Miss America pageant earlier this year. There was a lot of buzz surrounding her, or more specifically, surrounding her tattoos. Theresa was the first Miss America contestant to ever show her tattoos during the competition, and that seemingly benign milestone garnered a lot of attention.

Theresa did not grow up like the pint-sized princesses on “Toddlers and Tiaras.” Last year’s Miss Kansas pageant was the first she ever entered. While she is the first title-holder (please note, this is the correct term, not beauty queen) I have ever met, I have to assume her motivation is unique. She entered the contest to debunk misconceptions of what girls can and cannot do. And boy did I see what she could do when she taught me how to bow hunt.

Theresa has been a hunter since the age of 11, and a year and a half ago she picked up her first bow. Archery was actually going to be her “talent” in the Miss America pageant, but there was an insurance clause precluding moving objects, so she had to settle for singing opera. Theresa let me test out her bow, and compared to the summer camp archery of my childhood, this is a new generation of bows and arrows with sites, grips and a trigger.

side by side

Photo courtesy of Jeff Allen

After we determined that I am a “left eye shooter” (I’m left eye dominate therefore I used a left-handed bow, despite being right handed in all other aspects of my life), Theresa got me situated with the bow. Then came the tough part: pulling the arrow back into a ready position. Theresa has a 50 lb. bow, which means it takes 50 lbs. of effort to pull the arrow back. That space between the resting position of the bow and ready position with the arrow pulled all the way back is called “the valley.” It took some effort to pull the arrow through the valley, but as soon as I got it there, I could clearly see through the site.


Photo courtesy of Jeff Allen

When I pulled the trigger (which wraps around our hand and connects to the end of the arrow) the arrow sailed through the air, with some birds scattering as it wizzed by them. The reaction from my handful of on-lookers was one of amazement. My arrow had gone straight ahead, and although I had not been aiming for them, I nearly hit a bird (When you are as innately talented as I am, who needs to aim?).


Photo courtesy of Jeff Allen

“That was really good,” Theresa said, laughing with surprise.

The entire experience was really fun (and I’m not just saying that because I was pretty good at it). So fun, in fact, I may look to take up archery back in Boston. While I may not be ready to use a bow and arrow to hunt (had I actually hit one of those birds I likely would have burst into tears), target practice may be a good place to start.

group shot

Photo courtesy of Jeff Allen

After my introduction to bow hunting, we piled into our car (not Theresa, she got into her Miss Kansasmobile) and took off on a cross-state adventure. With Winter Storm Cleon cancelling our flight from Kansas to Arkansas, we pledged that a little snow and ice would not keep us down, so we decided to drive the nine hours to Little Rock. For the girl who hates to drive, this took some convincing, but once we got going I realized the benefits. The road trip provided me with a window seat for dozens of scenes from America’s Heartland. We drove through spots I had never been to, and very well may never have made it to in my life. The people I met along the way were some of the nicest I have ever met. And the topography, while certainly not diverse, offered a new view of America: one of big sky, flat prairies and tons of cows.

Somewhere in Kansas

Somewhere in Kansas

Somewhere in Oklahoma

Somewhere in Oklahoma

I had not expected adventure this week, just a business trip. But it seems that you can find new, exciting and treasured experiences anywhere, you just have to be open to the possibilities of what lies right in front of you…or right outside your car window.

I’d like to Thank Theresa Vail for taking the time to give me an archery lesson, and for showing me what title-holders (not beauty queens) are be made of. I’d also like to thank my incredibly talented friend, photographer Jeff Allen, for the beautiful images above, and for being a great co-pilot. I was not compensated for this post in any way.

Jeff Allen, loving life

Jeff Allen loving life

One thought on “My Trip through the Heartland

  1. Pingback: My Winter in Pictures | The Great Wide Open

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