Friday, November 22, 2013

A Road Trip Adventure Across America - Part Fourteen

“Who has not known a journey to be over and done before the traveler returns? The reverse is also true: many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.”
                                             John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

I awoke to the sounds of boys playing, mixed in was my daughter’s voice egging them on to do something that would make them even louder.  Avery was still asleep next to me and I struggled to try to get a couple of more winks in before getting up.  That didn’t last very long as Avery’s eyes opened and he heard his cousins.  He was out of bed and out of the room quicker than a mouse at a cat convention.  

Avery & Cousin
It was Thursday morning - the last day of our road trip adventure across America.  Part of me didn’t want it end and if I stayed in bed it wouldn’t, but then I thought about seeing Johanna and her kisses and our house and…well, I jumped out of bed so we could get on the road and home as quick as possible.  Okay, I didn’t exactly jump but extended a lot of energy considering I had just driven through three states with two wild kids and sustaining on only five hours of sleep.

Kristen and new house
It was early, like 6am, and Nick had already left for work several hours earlier. That’s just crazy.  Kristen was struggling to try and get her boys dressed and ready to leave, but since the four kids were enjoying each other’s company I think it was easier to just let them be.  Their dog was also in the mix with abundant energy that added to the chaos.  

Haskell new house

Relaxing before the big drive
I tried to break up the mayhem while Kristen was on the phone with the hospital.  They were telling her she was on hold and didn't have to come in at that time but they may need her later.  In the meantime we let the kids have fun together as she and I chatted for a while.  But soon it was time to get the kids dressed for daycare.   

I got my kids cleaned and dressed and packed up what little we brought into the house.  As I was loading the car I lamented over the poor Honda that had been sparkling after its detail back in Dallas but after a trip to Mississippi and the several days on the road since leaving Winnsboro it had succumbed to the bugs, dust and spilled Capri Sun and Cheese Nips droppings. 

When I stuffed our bags in the car I noticed I forgot to bring in my Great Grandmother’s cacti.  I had been diligent in carrying them into every hotel room and making sure they had water but I guess it was inevitable that a couple of spills would occur along the way as they were jostled around during blind searches for snacks and drinks while driving.  They looked a little weary but they were hanging in there and with just 8-9 hours to go until they would be in their new home I hope they weren’t mad at me for leaving them in the car overnight.  Cacti can be cruel sometimes.

After thanking Kristen for her kindness we all left the house at the same time.  She gave us directions to get to the interstate and we were off under the bright Arizona sun.  

There was nothing until we got to I10 and a couple exits down I saw a large retail area so I exited for gas and breakfast.  We filled the car up and then found a Dunkin' Donuts to fill ourselves.  A nice hot cup of coffee was just the thing.  I’m sure filling the kids with sugary donuts wasn’t ideal knowing I’d be cooped up with them for six hours but I knew we’d be home soon so what the heck.

between Phoenix & Quartzsite
The road from Phoenix to California is as nondescript as they come.  The flat Sonora desert was sandwiched between various mountain ranges that loomed far in the distance only to be used to judge how far we’ve driven. 

The only real town you go through is Quartzsite until you get to Blythe, CA on the other side of the Colorado River.   

Sonora Desert
The same is said for the stretch from Blythe to where the California Sonny Bono desert communities begin to spring up – Palm Desert, Palm Springs, La Quinta, Thousand Palms and the rest.  I never understood the names – Thousand Palms, 29 Palms or Thousand Oaks that's next to Moorpark.  Did someone count the amount of palms or oaks and decided why not name the town that?  What if they planted more or cut down some to build a Walmart – what then?  Do they change the name to 898 Palms or Five Thousand Oaks?  Just saying.

While passing by the exit to the George Patton Memorial Museum (I wonder if they have a huge American flag) I got on the phone with Johanna and she had a request for us to delay our arrival as she was trying to get the house in order before we got home.  As much as I just wanted to get home as soon as possible I had been in that same position and understood her dilemma.

Remembering that somewhere along this route were those roadside dinosaurs that appeared in the movie Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure – where Pee Wee Herman, on his search for his stolen red bike, meets the Paris pining waitress, Simone, whose mammoth jealous boyfriend thought Pee-Wee was going to steal his sweetheart away after seeing them emerging from the giant plaster T-Rex where Pee Wee urged Simone to follow her dream as they sat in the T-Rex’s mouth (that was a mouthful).  She responds by telling him, “oui oui, Pee Wee.”

still from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, 1985
Anyway, I looked it up on-line and found that the place still operated – Robotic Dinosaurs and Museum and promoted their place as having the “world’s biggest dinosaurs” and an educational adventure featuring work from scientists around the world.  Our desire is to help the young and old explore what is known and not known about dinosaurs, man and the creation of the world in a practical, factual and fun way.”  They were right off the interstate in Cabazon, just passed the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm – it would be a good divergence for the kids and enough delay to satisfy Johanna.

San Gorgonio Wind Farm
The good ole GPS was in fine form again as it sent me to the opposite side of the highway and to an abandoned shack which didn’t even possess one dinosaur.  I quickly deciphered that I needed to go back over the highway where I quickly spotted the T-Rex and Brontosaurus (actually I think you’re supposed to call it an Apatosaurus but we won’t get into that now).

Cabazon Dinos
The kids were excited about our stop and boy was it blazing hot outside the car.  We quickly purchased tickets and went inside the “museum” where the robotic dinosaurs were located and conveniently on the other side of the gift shop.   

It wasn’t crowded at all and we pretty much had the place to ourselves.  The kids were more interested in all the toys on display than the robotic dinosaurs, which were okay but a far cry from those we saw at the Discovery Museum in Tyler.  They did have a bronco dino ride that Avery had fun on – for a brief minute.  It was our last day so I allowed the kids to get something from the shop.  Avery got some dinosaur eggs so he could grow some little dinos at home.

Here little kitty...


After the museum we ventured outside to walk the trail of dinosaurs, a walk where every conceivable type of plaster dinosaur was on display.   

they're so life-like
dino dinner?
scene from Jurassic Park X
They also had a “dino dig” where the kids dug for fossils and got a prize if they found one.  Then there was the mini-panning sloop where they could pan for fossils.   

digging for fossils
panning for fossils
We then ended up at the giant T-Rex.  Olivia was scared to walk up the steep stairs to the head but Avery was up on top and in the head before I was half way up.  It wasn’t like the movie, which I’m sure was shot on a sound stage, as there isn’t much room to sit, but it was a cool experience none-the-less – staring out through the T-Rex’s teeth.  We could see our car from there.  Avery tried to get his sister to come up but she just wouldn’t do it.

climbing in the guts of T-Rex

in the mouth of T-Rex

After a bathroom break we gladly headed out, with a stop in Burger King next door to cool off and get lunch.  All in all, we were able to kill three hours and give Johanna the time she needed.

Before getting into San Bernadino – the birthplace of McDonald’s – we veered off the 10 and took the 210 North and then West, which would take us to the 118, the Ronald Reagan Freeway, that would take us all the way into Moorpark and a couple of miles from our house.

By the time we got outside Pasadena it was late afternoon and the traffic situation turned sour.  We slowed down to a trickle, which for Johanna was a good thing but not so much for two tired kids who were anxious to get home.

typical LA traffic

As is commonplace in Southern California, the traffic suddenly loosened up for no reason at all and it was smooth sailing as we veered off North again and away from Pasadena and towards the Northern San Fernando Valley.  Anticipation snuck up on us as we drew closer and closer to home.  First we passed the 5 and then the 405 and then we went through the Valley and up through the Santa Susana pass and finally into Ventura County, down the hill into Simi Valley. 

Ventura County Line

It was sinking in that our adventure was coming to an end.  School would start next week with Avery starting Kindergarten in a new school, which just happened to be right across the street from our house, and Olivia entering 7th grade.  But for now they had a few more minutes of the summer to enjoy and reflect…okay, they were playing on their EDs and I was reflecting on all the places we had been: 

We began in June, with our first stop Death Valley and then Las Vegas and the infamous Sam’s Town.  There was Hoover Dam and my computer, which I’m glad didn’t stay in Vegas.  Our luck in getting a cabin right inside the Grand Canyon and seeing the majesty of Monument Valley and almost getting left in the dust.  

There was not seeing the Four Corners and getting sick in Bandelier.  A nice visit with the Brooks clan in Colorado Springs and the personal tour of The Garden of the Gods and the Air Force Academy that spawned an idea in a little boy’s head about seeing where his Poppa trained before going to Vietnam.   

We explored ancient geology and the kids became Junior Rangers at Capulin Volcano.  Then it was a tour of Ft. Sill, including the artillery museum and the grave of Geronimo. 

Finally getting to Texas and the love of family.  There was fun in the pool, Olivia's drama camp and performance,  Avery and Carla at Camp Deer Run, losing a first tooth and fun with grandma Helen all in picturesque Winnsboro.

Ranger’s baseball, visits with cousins Ashley and Cooper in Allen and a ride on the Tarantula Train from Grapevine to the Ft. Worth Stockyards and back.   

The mini road trip to Mississippi where BB guns, water parks, scooter & tractor rides, playtime with Nana and Poppa and watermelon at Aunt Annette's were loads of fun, oh and eating at Mack's, of course.

There was visiting with old friends and making new ones.  Spending quality time with Grandma, Aunt Kim, Uncle Van, Molly, Uncle Kevin, Aunt Kimberly, Ashley and two-legged Cooper and the four-legged Cooper and Lola and Quinn and Freidolin and Harry and saying goodbye to Molloy.

There was a train ride to downtown Dallas and visiting where JFK was shot and showing the kids where Dad learned to make movies - at his alma mater, SMU.  We can’t forget about learning how you milk cows at the Southwest Dairy Museum and giving the moon in the U.S.’s only all-mirrored public bathroom in Sulphur Springs.  The hot Tyler zoo and letting imaginations go wild at the Discovery Center.

Then leaving family behind and blasting off to Space Center Houston and dipping toes in the Gulf of Mexico off Galveston Island.  The debit card scare and resolution.  Finding where the nectar of the gods - Blue Bell Ice Cream - is made.   

We got close to history while seeing the hallowed Alamo where Texas bravado was born.  I can't forget driving 85 mph in the middle of West Texas and going down into the New Mexican earth to explore Carlsbad Caverns.  Visiting cousins…again...and getting eaten by T-Rex.  It was a trip full of amazing experiences that I hope will be in our minds for the rest of our lives.  

But we had to get home first.  Our collective hearts began to pound as we entered Moorpark and drove down Los Angeles Avenue towards home passing familiar hangouts.   

Well, at least Avery and I were excited.  Olivia was fast asleep after a long summer.

When we got to the house there were no parking spaces so I had to just stop in the street.  I let the kids out to ring the doorbell.   

You don’t know how wonderful it was to see Johanna in the flesh – not on a Skype or Facetime facsimile.  We were home.  A very clean home…all thanks to Mom.  

I hope you enjoyed these recollections – it was fun reliving the trip.  Keep coming back here for more – it may not be about travel but I hope my posts will make you think a little, maybe learn something and most of all entertain and make you feel a little better.  Until next time, safe travels wherever you may go.

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