On August 23rd, we set out on a journey. We had been talking about it for months, and I was dragging my neurotic feet. One of the problems with being me is that I don’t handle situations where I am not in control very well. And by “not very well” I mean “not at all”. The whole thing was terrifying to me. After I had voiced all of the objections I could think of, and a few that I looked up on the Google for good measure, Dan very nicely told me to get in the car and hush. And off we went.
Our first stop was in Marion, Indiana, to drop off our precious girls at college. Two baby girls, two freshmen dorms. An unbeIievable amount of STUFF that had cost a small fortune. I had been both dreading and anticipating this day for months. Dreading it because they are my baby girls, and how-in-the-world-did-we-get-here? And anticipating it because they are TOGETHER. And they are with their BROTHER. And there is something sacred about that sibling relationship that makes my momma-heart sing. We stayed close by only for a short time…it was their time to fly high and they didn’t need their momma and daddy around to clip their wings.
We moved on from there to our friends Tim and Renee, in northern Indiana. They were our dear friends in Quito, and recently relocated to the US. We miss them terribly, and not stopping to see them was not an option. They purchased a darling little house, and it was wonderful to get to see them, to walk through their back yard and pick apples and pears and grapes off of their trees. Patrick got to feed a cow. They introduced us to what can only be described as the best doughnut on the entire planet. BAR NONE. I seriously had dreams about that doughnut for a couple of days afterward.
Chicago-bound. It was on this relatively short (about 3 hours) leg of our adventure that Dan switched our GPS from the girl-voice to the guy-voice. Because, as he so eloquently put it, “I already have one woman in the car telling me how to drive. I don’t need two.” Hmph. I can take a hint, and I took that one and threw it right out the window. Since I wasn’t doing any of the driving (and didn’t, for the ENTIRE TRIP), I figured the least I could was critique. Which I did for 7, 282 miles. This man of mine is a saint, in case you were wondering.
Our time in Chicago was short but sweet. We visited with a couple who is planning to bring a Christmas team this year. They showed us their fair city, fed us Giordano’s pizza, and took us to the top of the Hancock building where I nearly had a panic attack. I’m so much fun to be around it’s scary.
Bison, South Dakota was our next stop. Bison is in the top left-hand corner of the state. It’s the only thing in the top left-hand corner of the state. It took us two days to get there. We had decided that we wanted to see Mt. Rushmore since we were going to be so close. After winding through the beautiful hills, we arrived at the park and discovered that Mt. Rushmore is about a 1/2 hour attraction. We stood and marveled at it’s size, spent about 10 minutes debating the size of George Washington’s nose (Patrick’s guess was “100 miles long”–perspective, people.) and then went into the gift shop and bought a book that told us how long it really was. Six feet, in case you were wondering. We were back in our car and driving away 30 minutes after we left. It was here that we discovered that our GPS guy is an idiot. An idiot with an ego problem, to be precise. He got us hopelessly lost. I swear at one point we were driving down an ATV trail. There were signs saying “No cars”, and there we were, rolling merrily along. Our navigational moron just kept repeating “Recalculating. Recalculating.” What he REALLY needed to say was “OK, folks. I have NO IDEA where we are. You need to stop and ask for directions.” He didn’t, though, because of the aforementioned ego problem. It was to be the first of many occasions where he sent us off in the wrong direction and took absolutely no responsibility what-so-ever.
We arrived in Bison Saturday evening. I had called the pastor’s wife for directions, and she told me that there was one turn that we needed to make, and that if we missed it we would know immediately, as we could go a very long distance before we saw the light of day again. I wondered if she was exaggerating (I am a city girl, and “long distance” to me is more than three blocks) but she was right. We missed the turn and we knew immediately. Have you ever seen the movie “Beetlejuice”, where they step out the front door and they are in this no-man’s-land with giant worms and stuff? It was kind of like that, except with cows. Once we finally arrived, we discovered that our hosts were the most lovely people. We stayed two nights there, and had a wonderful church service on Sunday. There are 300 people in Bison, and about 40 or so in the church…and one of the members of the church is my distant cousin. We spent Sunday afternoon looking at pictures and catching up on “family” stuff. It was delightful. Patrick was enchanted with the grasshoppers, the garden in the back, and Pastor Phil’s “Happy, Happy, Happy!” shirt. He picked carrots and watermelon, photographed endless grasshoppers and discovered the pastor’s remote-controlled helicopter. We left feeling much loved.
After a quick, one-night stop in Colorado we headed for Las Vegas, via Park City, Utah. Dan’s cousin Mike lives there, and we wanted to see him and meet his two precious little girls. I’ve known Mike for 27 years, and it was SO. MUCH. FUN. to see him with those two little ones. He took us on the “insiders” tour of Park City, including the Olympic venues and the amazing “houses and history” tour. I was slightly disappointed by one thing–Mike lives on a golf course, and moose are frequent visitors. He had posted a picture on Facebook of one hanging out in his yard the day before we arrived, and so I messaged him and asked him if he could order one for our visit. He sent the moose a message requesting his presence, but apparently the guy doesn’t check his messages very often, so I got no moose. The next day, 20 MINUTES AFTER WE LEFT, Mike sent me a picture of the MOMMA AND BABY THAT WERE STANDING IN HIS BACK YARD. I cried.
Las Vegas was a new experience for me. Dan was there years ago with my brother, but I had never seen it and we actually had some ER business to attend to there, so it was a good stop-off. I made my brain very tired trying to wrap my head around all of the money that was flowing through there, and that’s all I’ve got to say about that.
We landed in Santa Maria, California on a Thursday and were able to spend a glorious three days with our friend Ruth. She’s another Quito transplant, and one especially dear to my heart. We got to hang out with sea lions, swim in the ocean, get a sunburn that defies description (Dan told me to put sunscreen on, but since he wasn’t listening to my driving suggestions, I didn’t feel the need to listen to his sunscreen suggestion.) and attend church with her on Sunday. Patrick loved playing with her two little ones, and I loved being there and getting some much needed girl time. I think Dan loved me talking to someone besides him. On Sunday we drove down the Pacific Highway to San Juan Capistrano where we have lots of people who are dear to us. We stayed there with Ellis and Frankie for another three days, and were able to take a boat tour around Newport Harbor (whales!), spend the day in Hollywood with Russ and Gina, and take Patrick to the San Diego Zoo (pandas!). It was a delightful stopping point, where we were loved on like crazy. I was able to bond with Russ and Gina’s dog, Izzy. She’s neurotic. We had a moment. I offered to take her home. Russ packed her suitcase. Gina and Dan put the kibosh on that, for very different reasons. Gina was afraid that their daughter would be traumatized if Russ gave her dog away. Dan was afraid that one more neurotic woman in his life would push him over the edge.
We left there (sans Izzy) on Thursday and headed to my sister’s house in Scottsdale. I hadn’t seen her since 2006, and I was so excited! We spent the evening laughing and remembering and laughing some more. We were only able to stay one night, and as we drove away I felt very sad–I needed more. Sometimes this life we lead takes it’s toll in strange ways.
Onward to Texas. We drove through New Mexico, where we stopped for gas at a gas station that had a tarantula walking across the parking lot like he owned the place. I was in the car, he was 15 feet away, and I was still having a panic attack. They need to get a grip on their wildlife. Our destination was Kyle, Texas, which is outside of Austin. It was here that we had what will forever remain one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. Texas barbeque. It defies description. We went from there to Abilene to see my friend Tracy, yet another Quito transplant. It was good to catch up, to see her kids growing up (she seriously has the most polite teenage boys I’ve ever met in my life. What gives.) and just enjoy her company. It was from there that we hit our last stop…Carrollton, Texas.
Carrollton is the home of a bunch of people that we love dearly. Sam and Karen were in Quito with us (see a pattern here?) and were surrogate parents/grandparents before they left. Carol is Karen’s sister, and she and her husband Dan have become family. They have two daughters, two sons-in-law and five grandchildren in their family. I think we’ve been adopted–we were out somewhere and someone asked Carol if we were hers–she said yes. I got all warm and fuzzy. While we were there, we took Patrick to the Dallas Aquarium (manatee!), had a birthday party for him (during which he got a remote controlled “helicopper” and a “Happy, Happy, Happy! shirt!) and got to spend a couple of days up at their lake house. It was the perfect end to an amazing trip around the country.
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I really didn’t want to make this trip. Not because of the people we were going to see, but because my mind couldn’t handle the logistics.
I am SO GLAD we made this trip.
The Lord took us all the way across His amazing creation and back. All jesting aside, South Dakota is absolutely beautiful. Arizona is breathtaking. California defies description as you’re driving down the coastal highway. He took us into the homes of amazing people who loved on us and made us feel welcome, over and over again. But what He gave us most of all was TIME.
Dan’s job is a busy one. There are a lot of people who need him. Add to that my working full time and raising kiddos and all of the other stuff that just happens with life, and you find yourself without much time to connect. We had over 100 hours in the car, just us and Patrick. It was talking time, dreaming time, remembering time…just time. I don’t know if we’ll ever have the chance again, but my heart is delighted that we had it this summer.
I know this has been long, but I felt like I needed to let you all know about our amazing journey. We’ve come full circle–we’re back in Ohio for a couple of weeks–and then home to Quito. It’s been good. Very good.