Cross Country Day 21 – 4 Corners … Silly, silly mommy

 

Note the size of the houses and the road in the distance to get an idea of the size of the rocks.

A cross country road trip, ours anyway, is a vacation in the car. As we like to say, this is our “land cruise.” A sampling of America. On Tuesday, it was already time to head to New Mexico. Driving through the painted desert and Navajo Nation in the northwest corner of Arizona was stunning. The giant, unpredictable rock formations reminded us of the badlands, but with green desert plants growing on the tops. Some of the rocks were giant “mesas” that took miles and miles to get around. Others jutted out of the earth in all sorts of shapes. One looked remarkably like the Emerald City, (see it on my FB profile page), another like a greek temple.

Earlier that morning I called Four Corners Monument and found out that they were closed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for construction. The only three days we are going to be in New Mexico. I can not express my disappointment, not only for me, but for my girls who have looked forward to this for a long time. And why in the world are they closed for construction during the summer season, even the week of July 4th?! My beloved coworker’s voice echoes in my head ” Ours is not to question why. Ours is just to do or die.”

Well, we decided to drive there anyway. We couldn’t even get close to the monument, but just as we were leaving the office lady pulled up and Doug convinced her to let us in to see it for five short minutes. He is quite the negotiator.

The actual monument, where the four corners of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona supposedly meet, was

Well, not quite what we had in mind. You can see a couple of the signs in this pic.

completely fenced off with a locked gate and several warning signs. I can not tell you how badly I tried to convince everyone that we could shimmy through the loosely fitted gate. (And we definitely could have fit!) Doug, and even the girls, kept insisting this was a bad idea. I can not imagine why.

So what stopped me? Nothing other than my conviction that I would be setting a bad example for my children. I must be getting old; some may call it maturity, but I’m not so sure. 20 years ago…maybe even 10 or 15 years ago, I would’ve been through that gate without a second thought. Oh well. Somewhere in the far, far, far, far, far…..far distance I hear a voice telling me I did the right thing. I think.

Closing up after we left - seriously, we had permission!

Tonight when Christina complained because we wouldn’t allow her to swim in a cold and unclean pool, I told her that sometimes we have to accept disappointment; sometimes we have to do what is best, safe and right, even when we don’t want to and sometimes we need other people to help us do the right thing…like not breaking into construction zones on private property. That got a big smile and no more arguments about the pool.

Cross Country Day 20 – Ain’t it Grand

Monday morning we left our hotel at 6:30 am for the Grand Canyon. Way too early for the girls and me, but the parking lots at the canyon fill up quickly in the summer and we had a 2 hour drive to get there. Today Doug actually asked me to drive – he said he was tired, but I think he just wanted to take pictures. During the first part of the drive, we climbed up a steep, windy 2,000 feet to Flagstaff and then stopped for gas. As soon as I pulled up to the gas pump, a giant wave of vertigo hit me.

Vertigo – my nemesis. If you’ve never experienced vertigo imagine feeling like you are on a boat in the middle of a storm with the waves tossing you to and fro, except in reality you are perfectly still. Once the wave passes, you may consider moving your head to look at something, or bending over to pick something up or tie your shoe. Then another wave hits you, and if your not careful, knocks you off your feet. No day is a good day for vertigo, but having it when walking the rim of the world’s largest canyon seems particularly inconvenient.

There are all sorts of theories about why some people have recurring vertigo – inner ear problems, silent migraines, neck tension. My physical therapist and inner ear specialist believe I have a combination of causes. Joy. Joy! Treatment options vary from migraine and anti-vertigo meds (which make me very sleepy) to some fairly simple, though awkward, PT exercises restore balance to the inner ear. I held off on the anit-vertigo meds but took some advil. Then, while the family went to see the IMAX Grand Canyon movie (I decided this would probably not be a good movie to see while having vertigo), I laid down in the back seat of the car, with the door open, hung my head off the edge of the seat and rolled around. Anyone who saw me must have thought I was crazy. But, as the saying goes: desperate times call for desperate measures. I wasn’t magically cured, but things slowly improved throughout the day. Doug and the girls took turns holding on to me when I walked, saving seats for me on the shuttle busses and picking up anything I dropped so I didn’t have to bend over!

All this may seem irrelevant, except that I believe the distraction may have tainted how we all viewed the Grand Canyon. I feel almost sacrilegious telling you this but, oddly enough, none of us were very impressed; or maybe we expected too much or something more than we had seen in pictures. Perhaps we were constantly worried I might fall over the edge, or we were a little tired from the elevation after spending weeks in the lowlands again, or maybe we have seen so many beautiful, fascinating wonders already.

I like Jacquelyn’s and Christina’s theories best. Christina said that the canyon was so big that all the cliff and rocks didn’t even look real, but rather like a painting. And Jacquelyn thought that the massive size made the reality of the canyon difficult to comprehend. I think they were both right. On this trip we have driven through several canyons (I especially loved the one in Big Horn Mtns.), following rivers and creeks as they carved through the rocks making the way for the very roads we drove upon. Here, after a glimpse of the bright green Colorado River, one might not even believe it moves at all. Maybe if I we had more time (and I was able to walk a straight line) we could have climbed or ridden down into the canyon to feel a different connection. Though one good friend cautioned me against hiking into the canyon unless we had several days, because the canyon is so large, even after miles of walking, the view doesn’t change. We felt similarly, even as we drove the rim.

One final observation: we visited at the canyon in mid-day at the peak of summer, when the sun is at its highest point. That kind of sunlight can wash out a landscape, robbing it of depth and color. I wonder if a visit in the morning, evening or off season is more impressive. Whatever the case, I am still thrilled to have seen the Grand Canyon with my own eyes. Standing on the edge of such an ancient and immense part of creation, humbles and frees me from the clever and persistent trap of self-importance.

CC Day 19 – A Service then Sedona

This Sunday we visited a church in Arizona – our first church service since home.  Though before  go on, I can not leave Phoenix behind without singing the praises of her roads. Imagine our joy, after leaving the streets of L.A., upon finding the best roads in all of America thus far, right there in Phoenix. Flat, wide, quiet lanes everywhere. On the freeway, in the cities, in the suburbs. My brother Ryan told me that the asphalt is even rubberized, minimizing noise! Sure, sure, they don’t have much rain or frost heaves or salt and sand on the streets; but I’ve got to give them credit for the many wide lanes and noise reduction. So far, the most pleasant city to drive in, hands down.

OK, so I found Cornerstone Christian Fellowship online and they appeared to fulfill our two main qualifications: 1) It was a solid Christian church 2) they wouldn’t mind if we showed up in flip-flops. To be honest, this was not a banner Sunday morning for our family. I am sure we are not the first family to encounter pre-church discord. Then our GPS bugged out on us and we wound up arriving 20 minutes late. Oh, how the battle of getting to church rages on ~ and just think…we wanted to go!

The church was pretty big with two buildings, a cafe, store and something like 5 Sunday services. We caught the last couple of worship songs (which were great) and a time of group prayer for our country (it was the 4th of July, after all). The sermon was an informal Q & A – though the questions had been submitted ahead of time. This was fun, funny and we learned some new things or at least heard them in a new way! We all enjoyed spending the morning with fellow believers on the other side of America on the 4th of July. Kinda cool.

After church we drove up to Sedona. The towering, rust colored rocks of all shapes and sizes, even richer in the setting sun, moved us all.I consider this one of the most beautiful places we have been yet. Sedona is a true oasis in the desert. The flowing creeks, majestic rocks, cooler temperatures (and even trees!) make one almost forget she is in the desert. I have heard that there is some vortex in Sedona; I simply know that Sedona felt wonderfully peaceful to me. Even when our family or the people around us weren’t at peace, something about that place just….well, it’s like the breeze blew sweet and the soothing right through me. If ever you are looking for a unique vacation spot, (sans the ocean, of course), visit Sedona!

CC Day 16, 17 & 18 – Home is…

The last three days top our list of favorite vacation experiences. We didn’t visit a theme park or tour a big city or marvel at the sights of a national park. We were with family!!! Before Thursday, we hadn’t seen my brother Ryan, his wife, Val or their daughters, Autumn and Hailey, since our family trip to Disney World in March 2009. This was also the first time we’ve ever visited them in Arizona. What a treat it was to see them in the place they call home!

When we arrived in Phoenix, our car’s thermostat read 117 degrees! Ryan and Val informed us that this is monsoon season so the air was a humid. To be honest, at 117 degrees, I am not sure I could tell you anything other than, it was wicked hot! Later that night a local weatherman reported “high humidity” with dew points in the mid 50’s. Well, now I understood! In CT, weathermen don’t usually call “high humidity” until dew points reach the upper 60’s. A dew point of 53? I’m thinking that just means I can be outside for more than 5 minutes without having to slather Vaseline all over my face. The weather is like Ryan has always described it: like opening the oven door. Even the wind blows hot. And I mean, hot!

 We stayed at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa. Mile points covered two of the nights and we paid for one. This meant three nights in one place – our longest stay of the trip. Upon arrival, Doug upgraded us to a magnificent two room suite (which allowed us to entertain family) with a view of the pools. Yes, pools. This resort boasts five pools, two hot tubs, a water slide, an outdoor café bar and poolside service. We all spent lots of time enjoying the amenities and finding relief from the heat!

 I had such fun seeing my “little” brother in his own home, which he and Val have decorated so beautifully. I feel a need to share with you that, in addition to nine- and two-year old daughters, they also house four dogs and a cat! Ryan and Doug find they have much to commiserate about, as men outnumbered by girls, or as they say “living in an ocean of estrogen”. Ryan and Val also graciously allowed us wash about 2 weeks worth of dirty laundry in their washer and dryer! How nice it is to have fresh, clean clothes again!

On our last day, Ryan and his ladies came over for a final swim. As we made our way into the pool area,  we found that the July 4th weekend had transformed our quiet, relaxing, sophisticated resort into something like Spring Break for Adults with Children. The place was a madhouse! Sure, it was nice having someone deliver iced cucumber water to me as I waded in the 3 ½  foot pool. However, dodging splash balls, rubber balls and footballs, (real footballs, mind you, not Nerf balls), children’s feet kicking next to my face and highly intoxicated, stumbling guests, made things a teensy bit chaotic!

For dinner, Ryan and Val took us out for a little local flavor at Joe’s Real BBQ in downtown, historic Gilbert. This counter service restaurant serves down home, comfort food such as spare ribs, chicken, ham, corn, potato salad, cornbread with honey butter, baked potatoes, mac ‘n cheese, homemade root beer, fresh lemonade and a colossal root beer float. You can’t find many, if any, restaurants like this back home. Of all the places we have eaten so far, Joe’s is one my favorites! We finished our night playing a round of Apples to Apples at their home and then saying good-bye. The usual sadness of saying good-bye was eased somewhat by the hope that we will see them all in October at my baby brother, Derek’s wedding.

Arizona was the first place I found myself thinking, “I could live here. This feels like home.” Then I realized that the reason I felt so at home was because I was with family. Being with Ryan, Val and the girls and saying good-bye has made me miss home more than any other time thus far. When we were at Disneyland I met a grandmother who has lived in L.A. all her life; she said she could never leave because her kids live there also. Isn’t that what “home” is all about? Home isn’t a place. Home is loving and being loved. For most of us, that means being with family. For some, it may mean being with your best friend, church body, neighbors or even your pets. I am blessed enough to say that I have all of the above.

As I ponder all this, I can not help but think about a better home, a greater home that calls to each of us. We are all aliens in a foreign land; restless wanderers looking for a place our souls can find peace, security and rest. In a sense, we are all homesick. If this is true, and if being “home” is loving and being loved, then the only place we will ever find genuine rest is in the lap of our Creator ~ the One whose perfect love fills every empty hole, soothes every open wound, heals every scar ~ the One whose love never fails, never wearies, never forgets but passionately endures forever. I love and miss you all and pray that today, wherever you are, your heart is truly at home.