We got home yesterday afternoon and were greeted by a sulky sky, a few drops of drizzle, and a mossy driveway. Welcome to Washington!
Our road trip home was an eight-day affair, with multiple surprises:
Day 1: Sedona, AZ to Las Vegas, NV. Within half an hour of leaving Sedona, where we'd spent a week, it was 32 degrees and snowing on the freeway to Flagstaff. What worked for me was driving slowly and in the tracks of the vehicle immediately in front of me. I observed four cars spun out in ditches, being assisted by tow trucks. I was grateful to be behind the wheel; my husband Art is a more assertive driver in less than ideal weather conditions. I was very careful but I was not afraid.
The interstate between Flagstaff and Kingman has some rough road. I wonder whether the funding has been cut for our beautiful national highway system.
Day 2: In Las Vegas with friends Tom and Shirley, members of one of the travel clubs we belong to and our hosts for one night on our January trip to Arizona. They took us to the Valley of Fire, Nevada's oldest and largest state park. A beautiful drive, an interesting interpretive center and a short hike. I was surprised I'd never heard of the place.
Day 3: Las Vegas to Bishop, CA, via Death Valley National Park and Manzanar National Historic Site.
I thought Death Valley was a low valley between two higher places. I didn't know it was a narrow mountain range then a low valley then another narrow mountain range then another low valley then another narrow mountain range. Drops and ascents were 6,000 feet or more in a space of just a few miles. Along narrow, winding roads with chasms just beyond the skimpy guardrails. I was grateful to be the driver, but I was terrified. Heights, you know. Well, really, falling from them. Not a fear shared by Art, but he was kind to me as I crept along at about a quarter of the legal speed limit.
I had visited Manzanar 30 years ago, when it was just an old building and some blockhouse remains. Now it's a fully functioning interpretive center and an auto tour through the site. In the center we heard the voices of some of those who had been confined to Manzanar during World War II. The interment is a good reminder of what fear can do, and how American citizens can be suspected of sinister activity in times of conflict.
I'd found the Trees Motel in Bishop on the internet. The reviews said it was clean, the staff friendly, and the price very good. All true! Our room was small but it had everything we needed. We sat on the front porch in white molded plastic chairs and watched children play in an adjacent grassy area. I talked to the men staying in the next room - three catch-and-release fly fisherman who had driven six hours to this place to fish for three days.
Day 4: Bishop to Napa, CA.
The drive on 395 up the east side of the Sierras is majestic and interesting, with occasional terrifying drop-offs. Most of the roads across the mountains were closed until May 15; we didn't find access across until we got to South Lake Tahoe. By that time Art had had several heated arguments with the voice on our GPS. The east side of the Sierras is a quick, steep rise and the west side is a more gradual downhill, through Placerville and Sacramento and other communities.
Our Napa timeshare, Vino Bella Resort, was a beautiful upscale place with multiple amenities. We needed to use up some timeshare points so we stayed two nights here. We lounged by the pool and ate five-star meals and slept in a canopied bed. We agreed we'd preferred the homey comfort of the Bishop motel but really appreciated the Napa food.
It was in Napa that we got a call from my ex, who told us our granddaughters' mom and stepdad are moving for a new job and that the twins will be living with him and my son (their dad) until the end of the school year. A big change for everyone, but probably a good one overall. I realized then that our snowbird season was ending. We looked forward to checking in with the girls when we spent a night in Roseburg, where they live.
Day 5: Napa
We're not drinkers so we passed on the wine tasting and took a hike in the Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa. The hike was about three miles and 600 feet of elevation gain; it's a good thing we'd practiced hills on our Sedona outings! Art got good close-up shots of a small herd of mule deer, a flock of turkeys and an eagle riding the currents above the valley.
Day 6: Napa to Ferndale, CA
Highway 101 is another magnificent drive. I'm grateful the area has been left unlogged. The road varies from freeway to two-lane road, from coastal driving to mountainside hugging over river-created chasms. A little scary in some spots, but I'm an experienced Death Valley driver, so I was okay. We stayed at the Victorian Inn, a bed and breakfast place, in their least expensive room at the top of a long, steep staircase. Another excellent dinner across the street and a fine breakfast in the morning.
Day 7: Ferndale to Roseburg, OR
Another glorious drive. My thoughts moved ahead to my visit with my granddaughters. I was curious whether I should stay in Roseburg a couple of extra days, to be of whatever use I could during the residence transition phase.
Day 8: Roseburg to Seattle and home
All was well at my son's house. Everyone looks content and they're getting organized into their new living pattern. Grandma is free to go home.
Ah, traffic. The drive from Roseburg to Brier took eight hours. Four bathroom stops, two phone calls with my sister Alyx about an elderly family member nearing the end of her life, four onramps near a military base right at quitting time. I recall with longing the empty desert roads.
But here we are, snowbirds back home. Our cat is warming up to us again. The car got its emissions test and new license plates today. The refrigerator is stocked. The laundry is nearly done. I am eyeing our many, many possessions at home and thinking we can do without most of them; the downsizing, decluttering process may not be far off. And I have four mediation events scheduled during the next two weeks; I've missed the business of being useful.
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