LA Bound – Tale#7- Arrived!

Continued from LA Bound – Tale#6

“Never surrender your hopes and dreams to the fateful limitations others have placed on their own lives. The vision of your true destiny does not reside within the blinkered outlook of the naysayers and the doom prophets.” ― Anthon St. Maarten

Our effort to drive into Los Angeles in daylight was somewhat anticlimactic due to the heavy fog and driving rain that greeted us in the morning. Top that off with morning traffic in the second most populated city in the USA where no matter what freeway you pick – and there are LOTS to choose from – it is bumper to bumper. It’s rather comical to see a speed limit sign allowing you to move at 75 mph when most of us could walk faster than our car was moving. The saving grace was the HOV-2 lane because at least that was rolling along…

My goal to accidentally drive by the Hollywood sign was a bust as the fog cover was hovering low enough that you had a sense that God had stuffed a big wad of cotton over the top of LA, trapping the emissions to give it a smoked butter glow. It was better than it had been thirty years prior when I left the area, back when every metropolitan area dealt with smog problems, but it was still evident.

We drove straight to a little restaurant we found near Universal Studios, a healthy ‘California Style’ hole in the wall where Vegan options were well represented. There, we connected with my first cousin and her family – a reunion she informed me had been 34 years in the making. We were simply older versions of ourselves and it was another validation for Erin that she ‘looked just like her mother’. I never tire of the wonder with some people and how, even after several decades, you can just pick up and carry on as if there hadn’t been a massive interruption in your interaction.

This particular cousin was one of the ‘big girl, big sister’ types in my life… a mentor of sorts who had the dream I wanted when I grew up… a home, husband, family & apparent Brady Bunch style contentment. That was my frame of reference – the Brady Bunch. I didn’t think too much about the marital history of Mike and Carol (Mike was depicted as a widower but the networks didn’t want to allow Carol to be a ‘divorcée’ so they just didn’t say), I just wanted a family like they had and my cousin appeared to have it. Indeed, (and maybe sadly??) I recall that my dad – who stayed with her for a few weeks – told me she would have all the laundry from the day before washed, dried, and put away before noon each day. For some reason – I used that information to create a standard by which a ‘housewife’/’good mom’ handles her home but that tidbit of information is for another story…  we will leave it to say that lunch with my cousin was good.

The best part for Erin was that my cousin’s son, her second cousin as lineage would outline it… lives in Malibu and knows people in the television industry. I guess if you live in LA, you are bound to know someone who works in television. It also turned out that my cousin’s granddaughters step-father’s brother-in-law’s neighbor… or something like that also produces a program and yadda, yadda… we’ll just say that numbers were exchanged and it never hurts to pass names along. The farther you cast a net – the more you have the potential to catch! Any and all help is appreciated!

Erin arrived in LA with no job and no place to live other than the AirB&B she reserved for a couple of weeks. She had been busy when not driving to connect with people about both and so this day was about organizing and preparing to find a job and a place to live. She had commented one evening at dinner – earlier in the week – that it had dawned on her that I “was just dumping her in LA and then heading home”. Indeed, my goal was to grab the Red Eye back to Philadelphia and my life there – that night.

I thought about this for a bit as we unloaded her car, the few measly boxes that she had packed to bring with her – none of which included furniture, décor, or kitchen items (outside a waffle maker she got for Christmas and photos of people she loves) … I am leaving my girl here with no family, no close friends, and no job. What kind of a mother am I? Suddenly this felt a lot like throwing a baby in a pool to see if instinct takes over and it automatically swims. I knew logically that this was different. She had been preparing emotionally forever and literally for a couple of months. She had a sizable savings account, lots of soft leads, efficient technology, and most importantly – a good head on her shoulders. I also knew that after we got the car unpacked and put a few groceries away that there was absolutely nothing that I could do. I would want to of course. I could do the apartment hunting for her, I could scour resale shops in search of a dresser and a clean sofa but I also knew that Erin needed to do it herself. Maybe she didn’t ‘need’ to but if everyone was right and she was as much like me as they all claim… she ‘wanted’ to do it and no amount of ‘mothering’ from me would change that.

After unpacking the car of the few meager belongings that she chose to take with her, we completed a Target run for groceries and a few remembered necessities. We sat in her room for a bit as I took it all in. For a brief period, she would be living there – in a rented Air B&B room that was void of her personality but full of her stuff. I was feeling grateful not only for the chance to have spent a week with her but for the moments we were having now… I was getting a sneak peek into the next phase of her life.

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We spent a few hours with her cousin and my Godchild, a student at UCLA in Santa Monica – walking the pier and eating dinner and then it is time. It was time for me to let go. Honestly as I type this I can feel the lump grow in my throat. It sits there because I don’t want to have her so far away from home that she can’t come over for Sunday dinner. It sits there because I know that if she needs me I can’t just hop in the car and comfort her with a hug. It sits there because I am so incessantly proud of her courage and determination. It sits there because I remember being the same way and I imagine that she may learn a few similar difficult lessons; ones that won’t feel good and I desperately want to protect her from them. It also sits there because I know that she can handle it and I am overjoyed with happiness for all the fun she is about to have as she discovers the young woman she is.

It didn’t take long… in just three days she received a phone call asking if she could be at Universal Studios the next day at 6 am. She got her first gig. She’s working on a new show scheduled to air in March, meeting people, networking, and working on the perfect roommate/apartment. She did it!

 

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LA Bound – Tale #6

Continued from LA Bound – Tale#5

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ~T. S. Eliot

It wasn’t long before we saw signs for Blythe, the California town just on the west side of the border. Erin was getting excited and wanted to make sure that I was prepared to take a picture of the state sign. She had a few very specific expectations on this trip and most of them involved a picture of something that she had anticipated as important – the California sign was at the top of the list – the granddaddy – the one worth turning around for. We entered Ehrenburg (notice the pronunciation is ‘Erin’ burg – weird coincidence?) and slowed down… it turns out that the state line is in the middle of the Colorado river which divides the states and we were on a bridge, on a highway… there was no where to stop.

California has border check points especially for livestock and produce… they are very protective of their produce, thankfully. We were waved through and immediately noticed a ‘Welcome to California’ sign on the right side of the highway. We pulled off on the side of the road while eighteen wheelers whizzed past us as they accelerated back up to speed, so that Erin could stand under the sign and have me snap a few photographs. We had arrived.

And yet, we were still several hours away from our next overnight stop. Since we gained another hour of time crossing the border we agreed that we would divert through Joshua Tree National Park. While I had heard about it, I didn’t know anything about the park or about the Joshua Tree. The park consists of almost 800,000 acres where the Mojave and the Colorado deserts converge. It is home of the Joshua Tree – a unique specimen that was named by the Mormons because they believed that the tree was welcoming them to the West and urging them onward.

We entered the park on the south side and drove north toward Twentynine Palms, a city infamous for its Marine training base. It was instantly apparent that we were entering a desolate desert landscape and once again, there was basically nothing… it was as if we were on Mars, I think. I’ve never actually been on Mars, but it’s exactly what I imagine Mars to be like… rocks and fine silty sand with little variation in color.

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Looking across the landscape it was as if we were in the bottom of an empty ocean. You could clearly see the drifts of sand up against the mountains as if there was a soft gradual rise exactly opposite what we see/experience when at the shore and walk into the water on the sandy bottom. The road seemed to disappear into the gray sand and we couldn’t tell which way it went unless we happened to catch a glimpse of the sun bouncing off a car coming toward us. Only then could we decipher the road as it wound its way through the martian’esque surface. We had no cell service and no GPS… we simply followed the road; trusting that it was leading us toward something worth seeing or experiencing.

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And it did… suddenly we were facing a field full of a type of cactus that is totally ‘unworldly’. In fact, it looks like it belongs under the water or specifically in a terrarium. I imagined it to be a natural habitat for tarantulas because they kind of look alike. It was the Cholla Cactus Garden and there is a quarter mile nature trail meandering through it but thankfully, we were short on time as I am not sure I could move away from that tarantula vision long enough to motivate myself onto the trail. And so, we kept driving.

Erin was reading the brochure about what ‘sights’ were in front of us and she started reading about Jumbo Rocks… explaining that they were created by magma pushing up through the earth’s crust til just under the surface and then over millions of years, the earth around them washed away leaving the magma remains. For you Geology lovers, I included the link so you can read about it but I assure you – there is no comparison until you actually SEE them. I have yet to see a photograph that captures the magnificence of those rocks… they are massive and they are strewn across the desert in random piles. It’s not an ‘ice age’ kind of thing – it’s not similar to ‘boulder fields’ that exist in the north but it is as unique and one of the most beautiful and interesting things I’ve seen in my life. My bucket list now includes another trip there – in a camper – with time to walk and walk and see the sunset. Around every turn thereafter we were both exclaiming “oh my goodness” and “look at that”.

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Eventually we arrived at the Joshua Tree forest and it isn’t a forest per se… not the one you imagine when you say the word but I suppose it is by definition – that is, a large grouping of trees. I totally understand why there are so many UFO sightings in this part of the world… those aliens probably think they are ‘home’ when they come upon this landscape. For all of my East Coast friends and family… it will be mind blowing for you; treat yourself with a trip to Southern California and make the drive!!

We came down out of the mountains into the north side of the Palm Springs desert and once again I was amazed at the number of wind turbines capturing the currents moving through the valley. I am impressed with the implementation of alternative energy and for some reason – enthralled with wind farms. When we were in Europe a couple of years ago I stood in amazement of them and the fancy of it has not tired yet.

I arranged to meet up with a longtime friend for dinner. I would say an ‘old friend’ but we are both of the age that ‘old’ has a different connotation. We met 35 years ago when she was my boss and after my brief stint with the company, we became friends. She is one of the only people in my life still that remembers me as a young woman madly in love with my blonde prince and it was really fun seeing her again. When we arrived at the restaurant she immediately commented on how much Erin looks like the young me. I’m never sure how Erin feels about that but she is always gracious. What is odd to me, just a little … is that I left California when I was 23 – almost from that very spot and here we were connecting with someone I knew back then as my 23-year-old daughter is entering California… how weird is it to think of that night as some kind of ‘portal’ for the continuation of some cosmic unfinished business??

Ummm… sounds like a sci-fi novel and I offer it up to anyone who has the energy to create it!

We had been on the road for six entire days and it was almost over. This roadtrip, a priceless adventure with my daughter was almost over. For the benefit of our budget we opted to stay out there in the East Valley overnight and drive into the city so that Erin could view LA in the daylight. This had been a dream for almost half of her life and I wanted it to be special for her.

To be continued…

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LA Bound – Tale #5

Continued from LA Bound – Tale #4

“The earth has music for those who listen.” —George Santayana.

It turns out that we entered Oak Creek Canyon, a fourteen-mile drive along the Oak Creek, nestled in a gorge that has been rated as one of the Top 5 Most Scenic Drives in America by Rand McNally. It’s another of those things on our trip that we only allowed ourselves a tease of as I was determined to make it into Sedona in time to see the sun set against all of the red cliffs.  There were a dozen or more ‘retreats’ and/or resorts in the canyon and I made a mental note to look it up and think about my next ‘vacation’! Additionally, we passed a number of signs announcing a trailhead enticing me to stop and hike for a bit… but this wasn’t that trip. It was a downright chore to keep my foot on the gas pedal.

As we rounded the corner into town the sight was more intense than I had remembered. I was in Sedona about twelve years ago for a really short visit and recalled that I thought the airport which is on top of a plateau, would be a great place from which to view the town and/or the sunset and so I made a beeline there. As it turns out, it is a good place – so good in fact that there is an observation point there and you have to pay $3 to park. I had to laugh a bit as I think I may have been the only one to conform and actually grab a ticket… I didn’t stop to check that other cars had done the same as the sun was setting and I wanted Erin to see it.

There is something magical about sunsets, at least in my mind and there is something electric about Sedona. It’s known as an ‘energy’ center and there are Aura Readers and Reiki Healing signs everywhere in addition to ‘spiritual’ teachers and spas. The people there would tell you that the red rock stimulates a variety of neurological centers in your brain and the green of the pine forests promotes hope and regeneration. I suspect that almost any kind of alternative medicine or treatment available can be found in the Sedona area.

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From the airport plateau, you can see for miles and walk around to view the city in its entirety. No matter your viewpoint, it is stunning in all variations of light. There are trails around the airport complex providing benches from which to sit and take it all in. Erin and I sat on one and FaceTime’d Harlan and Sara just to offer them a tiny glimpse of our amazement. It felt as if we had to share it… somehow enjoying the experience ourselves seemed almost too selfish. Every time we changed positions, the view was just as dramatic and we both felt peaceful and overjoyed simultaneously.

As with all of our other stops on this trip – we were only there long enough to snap a few pictures and eat. We picked a little spot that was good but unnoteworthy overall; it was just a nice restaurant and then headed south just a bit for the night. As we drove down the road it was apparent that we were missing some incredible scenery as it had become quite dark with little moonlight to highlight our drive. We stopped for the night just outside the city and I tucked away the idea that we might backtrack a bit in the morning just to have one last look at the majestic ‘red rock’ that we were both so drawn toward.

The morning found us itching to make more progress in our westward movement and we had to make a decision about the route; either go back north and head out I-40 or move further south and pick up I-10. The weather made the decision easy as massive amounts of rain were moving across California and into northern Arizona and so we routed ourselves to Phoenix. The drive was uneventful except for the fields of cactus that dot the landscape there. I was more excited for Erin to see cactus than she was and after I pointed out the third or fourth one she reminded me that my ‘repeating’ fostered annoyance. *sigh*.

The service engine light was still on and we were about a thousand miles over the ‘oil change’ recommendation and so we agreed that Phoenix would be a good place to get everything checked out. In the interest of time we opted for a Jiffy Lube and set the GPS for a western Phoenix suburb. The employee who ran diagnostics on the car provided us with a report and told us to get to a Nissan dealership ASAP and that he would was unable to offer any service on the car because the error code indicated that we had a critical problem.

It was Monday morning and we were just under 400 miles from LA… we still had our 24 hour window to address any issues that came up but we were so… so… close and it was disheartening to think that we might be stuck there for even a little while. Nothing is as frustrating as the unknown and so we directed ourselves to a dealership close by and drove ourselves right into the service bay.

I won’t say that I batted my eyes or pretended to be helpless but I might have used a wee bit of feminine wiles in so much as I let them know that we had driven all the way from the East Coast and needed to finish our trip as easily as possible. We gave them the code sheets that JL had provided. I can honestly say that the service guys who worked with us there were two of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. They ‘listened’ to us – addressed our problem (agreeing that it had probably been the gas cap and reset the dash light), put air in the tires and told us we could wait on the oil change until we got to LA. They didn’t charge us a dime and offered to wash the car before we left.

If you ever get a chance to visit Coulter Nissan in Surprise, Arizona… I highly recommend them!

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We grabbed a quick bite to eat and made the turn West, crossing the southwest portion of Arizona where nothing lives except a few wiry green things. If it weren’t for the interesting sharpness of the mountains and the intensity with which they jutted up from the flat sandy desert, there would be absolutely nothing to look at. We turned on Shonda and listened intently. I thought I could hear Erin’s heart beat just a little faster as the California border loomed in front of us.

To be continued…

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LA Bound – Tale #4

Continued from LA Bound – Tale #3

“Nature has two powers: Her own physical power and the spiritual power of her beauty!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

Other than seeing the Grand Ole Opry, Erin’s only other request for this journey was to make the short detour to the Grand Canyon and so with our schedule in great shape and good weather in the forecast, we started day five with eager anticipation. I had been to the canyon several decades ago – when I was eighteen and I knew it was one of those landmarks that you had to literally experience to believe the magnificence. I was particularly excited to share it with her. We packed up the car, checked the oil, and filled the gas tank. As we drove up the ramp Erin noticed that the service engine light was on. Reading about it in the manual (teaching Erin to inform herself first) – it suggests that there was an issue with the gas tank cap. We pulled over and tightened the cap… no change. Google to the rescue for additional information… verifying that it could be a cap problem and if so… it may take a week to resolve. I discovered that if it wasn’t blinking we were OK.

The scenery between Gallop and Flagstaff quickly disintegrated into flat, dry, and dusty desert without much interest. We had four hours before we turned on our northern detour to the canyon and so we listened to Shonda for a while. There are a few ‘attractions’ in that area of the country and since we had made a little time up the night before, we opted to pick one… we agreed on the 50,000 year old Meteor Crater. What do you think of when you imagine a meteor falling from space? Even the one that supposedly killed all of the dinosaurs? I am sure that I imagined a hole in the ground but never did I consider that the hole would be nearly one MILE across and 550 feet deep – deep enough that the Statue of Liberty can sit inside without peeking out. The impact was 150 times the blast of the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb and it decimated the forest that existed there at the time. Eventually, the hole filled with water and a lake existed there long enough for 200 feet of sediment to accumulate (the original depth was 750 feet – taller than the Times Square Tower). The vastness of it is staggering.

We didn’t take time to see the movie or move through the little museum for long as the Grand Canyon was waiting but it was a great little stop and only six miles off the interstate so if nothing else – it was a good opportunity to stretch and use the facilities. We were there barely an hour and then hit the road again. In Flagstaff, the scenery begins to change to a more mountainous and pine forest environment. There were remnants of a recent snow storm and signs that warned us of ice on the highway as we made our way to the state highway that would lead us to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. I couldn’t tell if it was a really long fifty miles because of our anticipation or because we were back in the high desert with little variance in the landscape but the closer we got, the more red appeared in the rock and my memories were dancing with excitement to be reminded and refreshed.

It was cold. We were 7,000 ft. above sea level and the wind was whipping across the top of the canyon plateau – again, we were wishing for hats and gloves. All considering, there weren’t many people there and so it was a great time to visit; the visitor center was almost empty and after looking at a scaled relief for a few minutes, the suspense got to Erin and we made our way to the rim. “What….? Oh. My. Gosh.” – there really isn’t anything else to say and you find yourself saying it over and over, not matter the angle you turn to view. I had forgotten that the canyon is an entire mile DEEP… and the view across to the other side averages about ten miles – and we thought the Meteor Crater was impressive!

I wonder if it is the same for everyone who returns… how many times must one visit before your body adjusts and no longer skips a breath as you walk upon the incredible view? There really is no way to describe the grandeur of the landscape or the colors, which even on a cloudy day, when they are muted, are quite spectacular. Within moments of us standing there, the sun came out as if in answer to my silent calling to demonstrate to Erin the astounding vibrancy of sunshine against the canyon stone. She was in awe and motivated to move along the path, snapping photographs every third step, appropriately oohing and aahing.  I think between us, we easily snapped a hundred photos in under an hour. It looks unreal, as if you could reach out and touch a canvas, a backdrop that was perfectly painted to fit into the immediate surroundings. In every one of the photos we took with a person it it… they look like they could have been taken at any Olan Mills or Sears Portrait Studio.

I have a photo of my eighteen-year-old self, sitting on a ledge with my legs dangling over the edge of the canyon. I remember my step-mom crawling out there on her hands and knees to get me off that ledge and I could suddenly appreciate her hesitation. Why is it, that as young people, we are so fearless? There were people crawling over and under railings all along the path to reach standing spots that looked impossible but allowed for amazing photo ops. I am completely surprised that only a couple of people fall to their death each year as the people I saw appeared to be quite close and I felt myself getting anxiety as I waited for it to happen.

Sadly, we were all too aware of our time constraints and lack of proper clothing so we headed back to the warmth of our car to notice that if we wanted… we could back track a bit and make it to Sedona in time for the sunset. We were only ninety-seven miles away and heck – after 2,200 … what’s another 100?

Motivated to squeeze one more intense sight into our day, we headed south again, then east for a bit (it felt quite misguided to turn onto 40 eastbound) before we exited onto Arizona-89A, a two lane highway stretching through pine forests that put the Pocono Mountains to shame. There had been some recent lumbering along the highway and we passed dozens of piles of timbered pine allowing my mind to imagine them lumbered and waiting for shoppers at Lowes or Home Depot… yes, my mind really does work that way!

Suddenly, the road began to descend and immediately in front of me a canyon appeared leaving me to wonder where in the hell the road went… I quickly found out as we were led into a deep switchback with six hairpin turns that had me gripping the steering wheel so hard that the word Nissan was imprinted in my palm when it was over. All along, Erin was exclaiming “oh my God, Holy Shit! Oh wow!” and more expletives in that genre to announce her awe at the beauty of the panorama in front of us. I was tempted beyond belief to look and take it in but there was traffic coming at me and no guard rail on my side so our lives depended on me staying focused on the road as we descended 4500 feet.

To be continued…

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LA Bound – Tale #3

Continued from LA Bound – Tale #2

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.  ~Mahatma Gandhi

That noise in the car turned out to be a soda can that had been in the parking space we pulled into when we stopped at McDonald’s… I’m not sure what it was vibrating against but as soon as we reversed out of the space and headed across the street – it stopped and it never came back. It did make me think though that we were driving out in the williwags on a weekend and if something happened to the car … well, we’d be delayed for sure. I had built in an extra day to our ‘timeline’ just to be on the safe side but it was our sightseeing time and neither one of us wanted to ‘see’ a dealership waiting room for longer than a hot minute.

We were on Day 4 and had a lot of motivation to get as far Northwest as we could and so we drove, and drove. Our conversations had dwindled down to “see those massive cotton bales” and Erin’s annoyance with me became apparent so I suggested we listen to a book. Since Shonda Rhimes was an inspiring figure to her, I had downloaded the audio book “A Year of Yes”, Shonda’s recent memoir. It has charm, humor, and some sound thoughts about living life proactively. It’s insightful but not terribly deep yet I think there is a solid message in the book. She addresses moving out of your comfort zone, taking chances, managing risk, and paying attention or learning how to be present – all things that most of us need to learn and/or refresh our memory about. It was good to listen to and of course it is ‘my kind of book’ in that I listen and then think about my own life – where can I apply the reflections?

I’d like to pass along two thoughts. First, she speaks about saying “yes” to things that she has long been saying “no” to and yet she also touched on something that she hadn’t realized she had been saying “yes” to all along… it made me think about the things in my life that I am saying “yes” to but with shallow awareness. I was pensive about whether or not I wanted to continue to say “yes” to all of the things that I am currently allowing… definitely worth thinking about. The second is the difference between a ‘dreamer’ and a ‘do’er’. Most of us dream but then there are people who actually DO.  Be a DO’er. No matter what happens from this point forward – Erin knows she is a DO’er – she had a dream and then she did something about it. Dreaming without doing is nothing.

We made good time driving. Erin pushes the accelerator down a bit further than I do and I think she drove more that day and so we hit I-40 a bit earlier than I had anticipated. As I looked at the map, I realized that we were only about 50 miles south of Santa Fe – a town I’ve always wanted to visit as I’ve heard that it is a great city. “Erin, how do you feel about a little detour?”, I looked at her with raised eyebrows and hope in my face. “Ok, what’s in Santa Fe?” she concurred with curiosity as I reprogrammed the GPS. “Mountains and cute Adobe stuff”, I replied not really knowing. Of course, Santa Fe sits at the base of the Rocky Mountains and Erin’s never seen a snow-capped peak except on television and in photographs so as we began to climb, I got excited to see her expression.

We’ve lived in the Mid-Atlantic region of the US all of her life and so her experience with mountains is limited to the Pocono range and a couple of car trips across the Appalachians during summer months… neither one of them shake a stick to the peaks of the Rockies. I vividly remember seeing them for the first time after growing up in northeastern, Pennsylvania and I was awe struck with their magnificence. I hoped she would be wooed as well.

While the mountains were certainly beautiful they were more distant than I had thought but she did get a glimpse of their majesty. What stood out even more to us was the architecture. That Adobe look was everywhere and it was gorgeous! I have always had an affinity to that style and I couldn’t take it all in fast enough. Suddenly, I wanted to move there… to retire in a little clay house with wooden beams surrounded by sagebrush hedges. The houses – entire neighborhoods – were tucked into hillsides but camouflaged as their Adobe exteriors blended into the high red desert landscape. It was awesome and in our enthusiastic observations both of us neglected to reach for our camera.

We decided on TexMex for dinner and headed into the ‘town center’ – a setting that Google maps offers.  It was still early for dinner and traffic, both on the road and pedestrian, was light. The streets were delightfully decorated with lights and there were galleries and shops along both sides with small restaurants scattered throughout. There were very few people around and so when we found a restaurant we were seated immediately. It was a pretty typical TexMex menu and I opted for enchiladas, Erin for fajitas – both of them a go to for us. There was a huge bundle of red chili peppers hanging almost right over my head and as soon as I took a bit of the salsa on the table, I realized that it wasn’t left over from late 90’s decorating schematic, it was a theme of their gastronomy. Holy Cow! My palette still hasn’t forgiven me. There seemed to be a ‘smoky’ essence to all of our food as well – perhaps that’s the TEX part of the cuisine.

We walked around just a bit – it was cold and there was a fair amount of snow/ice on the sidewalks. Erin and I both packed with the idea that we were headed SOUTH with a final destination of southern California and so we simply did not have the attire to allow us to be warm and comfortable in all of the cold weather we were experiencing. In addition, we wanted to drive out of the city in time to see the sun set over the mountains and we would have but… Erin prioritized filling up the gas tank…..

We don’t know what we don’t know and she didn’t know how magnificent that sunset was going to be. I was the driver and it ultimately was in my hands but my promise to keep the peace by saying “OK Erin”, was engraved on my heart and so I pulled into a gas station as the sun settled into the skyline and disappeared over the New Mexico mountains before we were able to hit a vantage point. We did enjoy some gorgeous colors as the sky darkened but I vowed to make that the last sunset on the trip that we miss.

It was a push to get as far as Gallop that night – almost to the Arizona border – but we had big plans for Day #5 and we were motivated to push as far west as possible. It was dark and we were in mountains, or plateaus I think – I couldn’t see anything and I was a bit sorry that we were missing the scenery yet I knew there were some amazing things in front of us. I was really excited to share a couple of my favorite places on Earth with my daughter!

To be continued…

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LA Bound – Tale #1

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve been home from that amazing road trip now for about forty-eight hours and it feels almost surreal.  If you follow me on Facebook where we shared a variety of our experiences, then you know how large of an adventure it truly was – if not… check it out – all of our check-ins are public posts. So, in my last post – seven days ago – I danced around the idea that Erin and I wouldn’t get along for a whole week. I said that I may write and in fact, I had a list of topics that I intended to write about as well as a shorter list of task items that I thought I would make time for as I sat in the passenger seat with my laptop but… none of it happened!

I hope you’ll bear with me as I take the time to honor the highlights of our trip. I am certainly not a travel blogger but I will attempt to entice you to schedule your own adventure!

If you ever get a chance to do a road trip with an adult child or even a parent – I say “Do it!”. With the small exception of stress about weather or traffic – it was one of the most relaxing experiences I’ve had in a couple of years. There were no expectations, responsibilities, judgments, or arguments. Well – that’s not entirely correct… twice, we clashed on perspectives to the point that we were slightly annoyed with one another but hey… for mom and daughter, that’s bound to happen! Except for those two very short lived snappy moments, Erin and I enjoyed each other’s company immensely.

I suppose we did have expectations of how far to get on a certain day and for half the trip we had scheduled stops to see family who conveniently lived near places we were planning to spend the night but that was fun too. It was great planning on our part to make time for people we don’t get to see but every few years – if that. Not only was it great to catch up with loved ones, but it gave Erin and me an opportunity to diverge our conversations after having only one another to talk to for an extended period. It broke it up a bit. And of course, we made some of it about the food…

We had ribs in Memphis, barbecued brisket in Dallas, TexMex in Santa Fe, Energy shakes in Sedona, and avocado jalapeno burgers in Los Angeles. I’m going to give myself a week of light eating before I get on the scale to see what kind of pound damage I did but even then – I won’t chide myself… it was worth it! Each time, we opted for recommendations from friends (thanks, Margaret! The Memphis Ribs were phenomenal) or ratings and reviews from Yelp (an app that personal ratings on restaurants and activities). We tried to stay away from national chains and searched instead for local treats. It worked great except for our first try in Nashville… Erin picked out a place to get breakfast downtown and it looked adorable. I think it may even have been recommended to her. It was a fun and hip coffee shop with a full breakfast menu but it was counter order and table delivery. The problem was only that it was so crowded, that when our order was delivered – we were still standing, holding our place card and looking at the guy with the mindset of ‘ok… now what?’ We were a bit put off by the people working on a laptop – taking up a whole table and never offering to share the extra space so we could sit down and eat. We ended up taking our plates out to the patio which, on any ordinary day in Nashville would be fine but that day… it was only 31 degrees. We ate quickly before the yolk in our eggs could freeze – and left.

It was a gray day in Tennessee. I’m sure it is beautiful in the other three seasons but without the sun to highlight anything, the gray of the landscape was muted even more by the cloud cover and frankly… it was difficult to find enjoyment in the scenery. I did find the topography in Nashville amazing tough… the hill cutouts (where they made room for overpasses and highway) looked like stone walls versus the typical layers of sediment that we expect to see when the earth is exposed. I’m a bit of a geology nerd in the sense that I am captivated by different geology formations – not that I really know anything about the science and so it was amazing to look at. We saw the Grand Ole Opry and did a backstage tour. Nashville isn’t really ‘my thing’ and I know next to nothing about Country music but Erin loved it. We got to stand in ‘the circle’ on stage which I recognized from American Idol or some other talent reality show and it was fun to know that people like Elvis had stood on that same strip of wood. I could definitely feel the vibe of extreme creativity and talent. In Memphis, we walked Beale street for a few minutes but the wind was whipping off of the Mississippi and biting our exposed skin – we had NOT planned for such intense winter weather on our Southern drive.

We spent that second night with family just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. They are the parents of my sister-in-law and we hadn’t seen them in a long while but after spending a week with them during a beach vacation a few years ago, we knew we would have fun and be comfortable.  I had a moment that evening as I watched my daughter engage in conversation with other adults and noticed how absorbed she was in the discussion, contributing in a meaningful way. It’s not that it was a surprise. She is quite intelligent and one of the things that made her a good server and bartender is that she pulls people in… she’s interested and converses well. And as I observed, I recalled something my mother once said to me. She looked at me one day and spoke of how amazed she was at the woman I had become, at how much information I had acquired and how I shared it – or something to that effect but I got it now.  Here, I was the mother observing a daughter who had transformed from a girl to a teen and now to this young woman who demonstrated influence far beyond the perimeter of what I had created. I instantly connected to those words my own mother spoke so many years prior and understood. It was a moment and there is a sense of amazement in it… again – it’s not a surprise but an awe… a revelation or an acknowledgment of life’s flow. It was quasi-emotional and I felt proud.

We woke up to a dusting of snow, which meant that the school system and many employers had called off the day. Blessings for us since there was practically nobody on the road as we headed for Texas. It didn’t warm up much. We found an authentic BBQ restaurant in the Bishop Arts District in Dallas where the Brisket melted in your mouth. I pretty much ate with my hands… pulling apart little pieces and dipping them in yummy barbecue sauce. In fact – I was simply piggy about it but I enjoyed ever delicious bit and… I had blue cheese cole slaw – a new favorite combination that I will definitely make at home! The Arts District look amazingly cute and enticing to walk through but alas… it was COLD. In fact – it was snowing as we exited the restaurant. People were standing in doorways taking pictures of the snowflakes as they settled on the ground and Erin and I giggled at them for being so easily taken in by a frozen rain drop. I made a mental note to go back to Dallas in the spring and wander around those streets.

To be continued….

 

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Roadtripping

“…you are my rainbow to keep. My eyes will always be watching you; never will I lose sight of you.” ― Vesna M. Bailey

I’m on a road trip. My middle daughter is moving to Los Angeles with a dream of becoming the next Shonda Rhymes. Consequently, we are driving from the east coast to the west so that she can wedge herself into the television industry as quickly as possible. It has been a dream of hers since she was fifteen and she’s worked extremely hard to make this happen. When she pushed the GO button we were all really excited for her but knew immediately that she would be really missed.

I kind of made the assumption that I would be driving with her as I knew her sister and boyfriend were less flexible with their work schedules, plus… I offered to pay for the hotels. And then – for a brief minute I thought that it may make more sense to ship her car out to LA and have her fly… less wear and tear, etc. I looked at all the options but quickly realized that it would be in exchange for an opportunity to spend a weeklong adventure with my daughter who may very well become a California gal. I hung up on the next auto transport person who called me.

Before long we had a roadmap outlined and I realized that almost exactly forty-three years ago (less a week) I made the same trip with my father, aunt, and siblings. I remember parts of that trip extremely well as it was the first time Dad let me drink coffee – and of course, I had to drink it black. It was the first time that I could remember that I had stayed in a motel and when everyone else was asleep, Dad let me sit up front and stay up late talking to him. We had lots of adventures on that trip and as I recall, they were predominately things going wrong so I’m hoping for less ‘adventure’ and more ‘memory making’ on this journey.

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Both Erin and I have made a couple of Facebook posts today about starting the trip – ok., maybe I made more than a couple – but there are people living vicariously through us!! One of the comments was so apropos to us from a woman who knows us well… “Be safe and remember that you still love each other at the end of this!” I had to laugh because out of all my children, she is the one most like me. People have been telling us this for years. It’s our demeanor that makes us the same… We are bossy, confident about what we want, assertive when we are going after it, and stubborn about what we know. We both like to be in control and we each get a certain kind of ‘hangry’ when we need food. Erin may be a little rough around the edges yet but I see my young self in her and know that she will mellow even if it is because the world beat her down a peg or two. Until then, she will fire up any pile of kindling that stands between her and her goals.  Would it be narcissistic at this point to say I admire those attributes? Even so… I am intensely proud of her and feel confident that dropping her into the center of Los Angeles and taking (literally) the next flight home – is an OK thing to do.

In the meantime, we are traveling across the United States in a little car that is the same color as the pavement and even though we have the headlights on, I’m a bit nervous that the thousands of semi-trucks on the highway may think we are nothing more than a reflection of a speed limit sign. It’s good to know that there are logistics systems continuously at work as I imagine that the trucks are mostly full of goods that need to get from one point to another (what else would they be?) but it’s a bit nerve-wracking.

We got through the first day without arguing about anything at all. Yesterday I practiced all day by repeating over and over… “ok Erin” and I used the technique successfully a couple of times today with great success. We have downloaded the audio version of the new Shonda Rhymes book to listen to when we run out of things to say to one another but we didn’t need it today. Actually, it was great to have her to myself for such a long stretch today. For the last year and a half, as she was living at home and working, I didn’t see her much. She worked in the restaurant business and as a bartender so we had vastly different schedules. Mostly, we saw each other in passing and communicated via text message. I got the chance to ‘catch up’ with her a bit today about the things we were ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’… much deeper topics than ‘please replace the milk you drank’ and ‘can you put away the dishes’.

It’s a funny thing about my children being so independent and adventurous… Frank is living in France… Sara spent a year overseas… Emily is talking about going to Australia to work for a summer after college. It’s easy to think that they are running away, fleeing home and getting as far away as possible although I know- logically – that’s not true. I have to remind myself, though… it’s that I did a good job. They grew up with the confidence to fly and isn’t that what we are supposed to do as parents? Let our children fly? What a mixed bag of blessings it is really. Earlier this week I was reminded of what I always considered a ‘Hippie’ mantra… “If you love something set it free. If it comes back it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be. (Richard Bach)” I guess there is nothing more fitting about that sentiment than motherhood.

I took the time to specifically be ‘in the moment’ today – I didn’t pull out my laptop or my phone other than to look at maps and ‘check in’ at the various places we stopped. I didn’t have any phone conversations and I can already feel a bit of relaxation starting to settle into my psyche. I may or may not post over the next couple of days as we explore a few places off the main highways (she has a bit of a bucket list) and we are stopping overnight twice to visit with extended family members.

Thanks for reading… thanks for following my journey and please keep letting me know when it is helpful… I love reading those comments!