Week 9 – Closed for the Season

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So, we were sitting in the middle of Death Valley on Black Friday when we realized that the drive back towards Los Angeles and then Sequoia National Park were really far.  And going backwards seemed like a less than good idea.  So we made the decision to push on towards Yosemite.  Which in the end was an even worse idea.

We stayed in a minuscule town outside Mammoth Lakes called Bishop, CA.  There was one room.  It was a smoking room.  My entire childhood came flooding back through my nostrils.  All those years of inhaling second hand smoke.  The many hotel rooms we shared with my dad who did not give a hoot about our potential lung health (and I might point out that he is currently and forever deceased).  I woke up in the morning with a headache, sneezing and coughing.  And I told my dad, “See I told you I was not imagining all of that as a child.”  But he can’t hear me now, much like he didn’t hear me then.

We learned something in Bishop, CA.  We learned that in November the eastern mountain road crossing the Sierras through Yosemite to the west closes.  For the season.  Ugh.  And also, when there is a winter storm crossing the Sierras, all the other mountain roads close too.

While we missed most of our bucket list California National Parks, this story ends well.  We pushed up the eastern side of the Sierras to Lake Tahoe, where it is a lovely winter wonderland.  As we were sitting at lunch pondering our next steps, we found out Aunt Katie was not using her time share in, guess where?  Lake Tahoe.  So for the next few days we will be sledding and snowshoeing from our digs at the lake.  Thank you, Aunt Katie.  Those words are not nearly enough, but we are so thrilled to get to spend time here.

All of this to say, that we spent an amazing week in Arizona.  Flagstaff was pretty fabulous.  We went to Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert National Park, Walnut Canyon, Sunset Crater Volcano and Wapatki National Monuments, and of course the Grand Canyon!  We caught up with friends near Phoenix and spent Thanksgiving in Las Vegas.  And I repeat the sentiment…what makes you more thankful for the things you have than Las Vegas?  We spent the most memorable holiday looking out over the lights of the city eating a delightful meal made mostly in the microwave.  A to the Men.

Next week:  The Redwoods then Oregon.  Bend, Tillamook, Mt. Hood, and Multnomah Falls.  I’m excited to relive the LC Posse days in Portland and spend some nights in Astoria.  Those were the days…

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Week 8 – The Business

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With four weeks left to go on our trip, we sat down and re-wrote our plans.  Again.  As time goes on we become more flexible in some ways and less in others.  Although we had great dreams of south Florida, the truth is, Florida wasn’t as much our thing as we imagined.  We started to look forward to the west and wide open spaces again.  We dreamed of snow.  We decided that our trip up the west coast was not to be missed.  With little fanfare we bid the peninsula adieu and hightailed it across the country.

Here’s what that looks like:  we passed the 10,000 mile mark somewhere in Alabama.  Brad has driven every inch of our trip.  He has hauled that camper through the biggest cities and the tiniest of roads.  He has searched high and low for parking.  Every time we go anywhere, knowing we are too tall for parking garages (roof box with skis) and too long for one spot.  All the live long day, hooking and unhooking the camper.

We took a good long look at the weather, and a good long look at our budget.  In the last week Brad drove us through eight states.  Safely.  We agreed that pulling the camper through snow in the mountains was not what we wanted to do and therefore stored it in Albuquerque.  This requires us to reallocate our resources, but doesn’t break our budget.  So onward.

This week we look forward to the Grand Canyon and time in Arizona.  Our soft Florida cheek skin has become wind blown and dry in the desert.  We have loaded up on chapstick.  At least one of my boys is still wearing shorts (he is a true Coloradan).  We have so much to be thankful for.  Regardless of where we are.  We will miss the traditional family Thanksgiving feast as we pass through Nevada.  We will make the best of where we are and enjoy Las Vegas.  With kids.  It can’t be worst than that one block of Bourbon Street they saw, right?!?

Weeks 6 and 7 – All Things Great and Small

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Sometimes life is so big, the weight of it is crushing.  I find myself to be the smallest at the ocean.  A sea of unknown creatures, and unknown depth.  The vastness not visible.  On the beach, shells lay battered by the tide.  A brave few cling to the shore with their last moments of life, fully intact.  My little people comb through the sand and try to make sense of centuries of birth and death.  They pluck up shells and stars and find a dead jellyfish.  And they are so small that is crushes me like the sea.

And Clair De Lune.  If someone pecked that tune out for me on a beach under the starry night, all of life might make sense.  But Paris.  And Beirut.  And Kenya.  Like the shells on the shore, the boys pick out the bits and pieces they understand.  We are removed from the enormity of the crises happening, but the news filters to us on the road.  We answer question after question trying to glean some understanding ourselves.  They make me wish that life could be boiled down into the simple understanding they have of love and peace and kindness.

As we explore our corner of the world, it’s interesting to see how parts affect the whole.  How change can start with one little step, one little voice, one little person.  I love to see them picking at pieces as they search for answers about greater things.  We will spend our last few days in the south exploring more about civil rights.  Connecting current events and history sometimes creates a tangled storyline that is full of complexities and simplicity at the same time.  I find it fascinating that we can do something big and abstract like sending humans into outer space, but we haven’t yet mastered how to relate to the humans on earth.

Next we travel to:  Selma, Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, AL; Memphis, TN; then head west via Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.

Week 5 – Community

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We spent the last week camping in Fredricksburg, Virginia.  What I take away most is the way in which we become part of a community.  Right out of the gates a roving band of square dancers pulled us into the fold and invited us to their monthly dance.  I hesitate to tell this story for reasons that seem obvious.  Like, don’t give me a hard time for spending a Saturday night with the square dancers.  Some of my favorite folks are square dancers.

What was most endearing was Larry of the Larry Squares (because there were four Larry’s in their group) who invited my kids to watch him cut a rug.  The Larry Squares have been meeting since the 1970s.  As I watched them do-si-do, I did the math and calculated that they have been dancing together since their 30/40s.  Since they had babies.  Careers.  Pre-retirement.  Larry shared pictures of his family, his home and his wife.  He dances because it helps with memory.  None of their children participate, nor their grand children.  And still they promenade.  For just one evening we spent time in the company of others who could not be more different than we were, doing something we would not choose to do.  And it was lovely.

We meet people every day who grace us with their kindness, advice and humanity.  We try to do the same for others.  We try to do the same for each other.  The more we welcome stories and share our own, the better the experience becomes.

Next up:  Kitty Hawk and Cape Hatteras, North Carolina; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; Orlando, Florida.