Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

When To Consider Protective Measures Against Hostility

©Bert Gildart: If you travel much, more then likely you have encountered situations in which you wondered about your safety. That happened to Janie and me while traveling near Duluth, Minnesota, several weeks ago. The ugliness of the situation prompted us to think about the circumstances that would force us to take measures to protect ourselves. At our disposal is Bear Spray and sometimes a firearm, but when would we have been justified using one or the other–or perhaps even both?

Because so many people we meet in RVs do carry some means of protecting themselves, it’s something you may want to really think about, playing out various scenarios. I think the subject is important and  contacted several RV owners and asked for their opinion, which will be the focus of an upcoming post. As well, I will be posting a Case Incident Report from my notes in my files used to generate the report while working in Glacier as a seasonal park ranger in the 1980s. The report recalls an episode that turned violent.

All this will be included in a three-part series, and the other two will follow on Wednesday and Friday. This is the first.

It is worth mentioning that in all my years, I’ve been concerned about life and limb very few times. Still, I believe everyone who travels should have a plan for those times when potential disaster rears its head.


Violence in national, state and city parks is highly unusual, but does occur, as Janie and I know. For us, it seems to rear its head in off seasons, and in isolated places

Here’s our situation: Several weeks ago, we were in a campground and about noon several fellows walked in and set up a tent and soon started drinking hard liquor. One of the fellows seemed friendly, so I wandered over and told him that if they were planning a party, we’d move, no problem but we just wanted to know. Certainly, we didn’t want to move as we were ideally located for launching our kayaks for a photo shoot. So when the fellow said they planned a quiet evening so they could start work the next day, I was relieved. However, that’s not the way the afternoon unfolded.


By the time we returned from our outing, two of the fellows were falling-down drunk, literally. In fact, one fellow walked over to the edge of the bushes collapsed, then had to be dragged back to the tent. To compound matters, several other young men had joined the first three and as Janie said, “They look like jail bait.” Looking at the men with their long unkempt hair, tattoos, ear rings, I had to agree. In fact, they looked like drug pushers.

To make matters worse, one of the new fellows stomped over and said, “I understand you don’t like us and might want to move. Well you don’t have to! I’m just back from Afghanistan and I’ll protect you.”

The fellow looked fit and was wearing a jacket emblazoned on the front with the word Marine, so perhaps the situation was as he said. Still, among the group he appeared to be the most aggressive; the rest seemed on the verge of passing out, and several, in fact, had.

Moving, of course, might have been the best thing, but the campground was small and in reality, we would not have been much further away. And who knew what demons possessed the fellow and might then have prompted him to follow us.


What I did do was tell one of the fellows we were leaving in the morning and then loaded up, ready to leave if things deteriorated. We retired to the interior of our camper and took measure to protect ourselves. Simultaneously we thought of the various scenarios that would prompt some type of response. And we thought, too, of the types of responses we could make.

Once I might have considered a physical response. Years ago I was Alabama State Runner up in the middle weight boxing division of the Golden Gloves, and have kept myself in good shape. That means I could probably emerge victorious in a fight with someone about my size who is 68, has a bad back, a bad rotator cuff, and can no longer close his hands to make a fist because of arthritis. Give me that kind of enemy combatant and, by George, I’d consider forcing the bastard’s hand.

But now I’m older and hopefully wiser; wise enough at any rate to consider other plans of action. Here’s what we came up with.

First, if someone came over and banged on the door, we concluded we’d remain inside and tell him to go away. If the banging persisted, we’d call 911. If the intruder damaged our trailer (and only we Airstreamers know how protective we can get) I believe I would have confronted the fellow with Bear Spray, a formula that has been used effectively against enraged grizzly bears.

Of course nothing ever turns out the way you plan, and there were, of course, many other scenarios, not all concluding satisfactorily.

Fortunately, all turned out well. The men passed out early, and then next morning, one staggered over and said he wanted to apologize if they’d kept us awake. The Marine smiled and told us he was a Crow Indian and that he’d be heading back to service in several weeks. Though the sun had just barely risen, all had already started drinking, and now it was straight booze. Quietly, we pulled out.


This is not the first time we’ve had to think about various scenarios. Once in Glacier National Park, late in the fall, someone broke into our old Jayco travel trailer and stole enough so our insurance company reimbursed us to the tune of $1,700. What might we have done if we’d returned and caught them?  What should we have done? (Tune in Friday.) You can’t be paranoid, and we don’t deliberately place ourselves in marginal situations. We enjoy our privacy and think the best plan is one of preparation.

What I’m really getting at, I suppose, is under what circumstances is action justified? Diplomacy is best, but there may be times when it simply won’t work.

I believe everyone needs to spend a little time thinking about a plan of action and then rehearse it so that you will in fact know what you will do. Because my plan of action might not be the best, I contacted several others and will post some of their thoughts this Friday. This Wednesday I’ll post a case incident report from my experiences as a ranger in Glacier. It was an ugly situation and resulted because the men from the fist fight that resulted were living on the fringe–much like the fellows from Monday’s post were doing.



*Springtime in Glacier National Park

4th ed. Autographed by the Authors

Hiking Shenandoah National Park

Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Often the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.

$18.95 + Autographed Copy

Big Sky Country is beautiful

Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State

Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.

$16.95 + Autographed Copy

What makes Glacier, Glacier?

Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent

Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons

$16.95 + Autographed Copy

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