Monday, September 9, 2013

Westward, Ho!

After 3 years absence from California, it was time to make a visit to our old stomping grounds. I'd been back only 1 1/2 years ago, when I had to make an emergency trip out to pick up John, but since I only stayed overnight and saw only one of my friends (not that you weren't worth it, Ingrid) I've never really counted it as much of a visit.

Besides the fun of a visit, we were planning a(nother) memorial service for my grandpa in Lodi, the town where my grandparents lived in their retirement. And I wanted Caleb to get to visit his mom, since he'd gotten to see his dad in April. So with only a couple weeks until school started, limited funds, and a van with a disturbing habit of making terrible noises, we piled in for a daring road trip.

Little did we know. Little did we know....

Our traditional first stop in Glendive, MT.

Since my mom was along as a relief (read: primary) driver, our plan was to drive straight through to save on lodging costs and have more of our trip time to spend in California doing the fun stuff. No offense, Western United States, but the glow is off our relationship after 50,000 trips along the same route.

The kids did a lot of sleeping that first day. I could have taken an entire photo series of Devon. He elevates sleeping to a kind of performance art. Damon, Tiggy, and Devon had to share the bench seat in the back, but Devon was unfazed by his lack of space. Once asleep, the world became his oyster, and it was not uncommon for him to have a foot by Tiggy's face, one leg extended up by my mom's seat, and his head butted into Damon's side, or some such variation of his endless repertoire.

It was a thing of beauty.

"We" drove through the night, reaching West Yellowstone by 2 AM and stopping for a couple hours of sleep just before sunrise. The kids were just starting to wake up when we got to Idaho Falls, the place on our journey where we turn south and head into the blazing cauldron of Nevada.

But first we had to make another traditional stop, this time at the Perrine Bridge, a truss arch four-lane bridge over the Snake River Canyon. This bridge is an amazing thing to see, especially if you're not expecting it. The ground is completely flat around there, and you're just driving along, the town visible just in front of you. Suddenly, the earth disappears beneath you and you're suspended 486 feet above the Snake. It gives you a thrill, I can tell you!

We were fortunate enough to stop early in the morning right when a bunch of BASE jumpers were about to make their descent. I've never seen that happen in all the times I've stopped before, and it was a real treat.  There were crowds of them, some in the process of jumping, some still training on the side.

Devon chatted a bunch of them up, and we discovered that a person has to make 300-400 successful sky diving jumps (wouldn't be much point in continuing the sport if they were unsuccessful jumps...) before they are qualified to BASE jump. That made me feel a little better, because we'd already heard that this was the first jump for most of them, and I had pictured a bunch of tourists showing up and flinging themselves over the edge like so many tragic Disney-coerced lemmings. It was much better this way.

There was even an 80 year old man that jumped, and he did the best of any of them. He was a very potent reminder that you are never too old to chase your dreams. So yes, Noni, you can thank me when Devon pursues his dream of sky diving.

Underneath the Perrine Bridge.
 Of course we stopped at our favorite rest area by Jackpot, Nevada. I've stopped there every trip I can remember since Laura and John were 3 and 4, respectively and I made my first trip out to Minnesota. It's a nice place to cool off before hitting the desert.

And you have to admit, this is one cool pooch!

After that, it was down to Nevada. Our poor, decrepit vehicle had no air conditioning, and it was a rough trip across the blazing desert. I tried to cheer myself up by remembering that it took the pioneers about 6 weeks to do what we were doing in 6 hours, but such was my modern sense of entitlement that I still felt very sorry for myself as we sweated our way across.

At last, late in the afternoon when things were finally starting to cool off, we reached the Sierras---and another one of my traditional stops. Yes, folks, we were back in Taco Bell country again, and the restaurant in Verde, NV is a very nice one with good quality food. I'm somewhat of a Taco Bell aficionado, so you can take my word for it.

California at last.....but still about 5 hours from our destination.

We got there well after midnight, but our dear friend Elba, was such a good sport she still said she was glad to see us. That is true friendship right there! Nobody spent much time chatting, as late as it was. We needed what was left of a good night's rest to be ready to see all our old friends at church the next morning.

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