We left home on December 23 and arrived in Tucson on the 29th. The trip went according to plan, and I have the memories to prove it.
For the last four years our twin granddaughters Mary and Malayne have spent the week between Christmas and New Year's with us in Washington. This year they moved with their mom Rebekah and stepdad Dan from Roseburg, Oregon to Spokane, and the twins spent their winter break in Roseburg with my son Russell, their dad. So we spent the first two nights of our trip in Roseburg - one lovely, quiet evening with our old friend Jeanne, and Christmas Eve Day (doesn't everyone describe the 24th this way?) at Russell's house. He cooked his first turkey - on the barbecue - and it was pronounced delicious. Also in attendance were his girlfriend Amanda, my husband Art, my ex-husband John and his girlfriend Shirley, and John's sister Patty. As we sat at the table and then opened gifts, I thought how fortunate we were to be sharing this event in good spirits and with affection for everyone. It has been nearly 30 years since John and I divorced, and yet in some way we are still family. It has been great for our children. I am glad that John has found happiness with Shirley, and I am even gladder that I can say that!
We drove south on Christmas Day under gray skies and intermittent fog. But as soon as we'd made the long climb up the mountain from Ashland, the sun and blue sky came out and stayed out. Wonderful!
I have been to California numerous times since I moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1980, but it's been almost that long since I've driven rather than flying. The trip down the length of the state was sometimes a reflection of then and now.
We spent the night at the La Quinta Inn in Stockton, arriving after dark. When we left in the morning, the air was distressingly polluted - fog combined with the output of industrial activity resulted in visibility so limited that we missed our first freeway turn because we couldn't see the sign! Many trucks, rough interstate road. I don't remember Stockton like this 30 years ago.
The long straight drive down I-5 in the Central Valley reminded me of the productivity of California soil and the continuing struggle with a limited water supply for an enormous, crowded state. So many people living in the "promised land".
We arrived in Los Angeles at 3 pm and, despite our effort to find an uncrowded freeway we could use to get past the city to San Diego, we were unsuccessful. We sat on "the 5" for half an hour in the Santa Clarita Valley and on "the 210" for another half hour near Pasadena. We finally stopped for dinner in San Dimas to wait out the traffic. The "promised land" has compromised air quality, millions of vehicles and even more millions of residents. Not so promising, to my mind. I lived in this area for six years in the 70s, and I am very grateful we moved north.
Then, three nights in San Diego with daughter Melissa and son-in-law Scott. A hike at Torrey Pines from the bluff to the ocean. I can do it! And a visit to Balboa Park and two of the museums there. The best part of these days was the time spent with Mel and Scott. It is wonderful to have an adult-to-adult relationship with grown offspring. We talked and laughed and ate and played Mexican train (dominoes). Melissa is the oldest of the eight offspring in our blended family. I know she watches out for us, and that is a good thing. By the time we left, we were all caught up and very glad for the time we'd spent together. We'll see them again in July at a family gathering in Idaho. They're planning the event - another nice thing, the next generation down picking up the torch of family continuity.
I could live in San Diego, I think. But I couldn't afford to buy a house there!
The final driving day, from San Diego to Tucson, was mostly desert. As we passed through the towns I was so, so grateful I don't live there. I spent nine years living in the desert when I was younger, and I remember the summer heat, the wind, and the sense of desolation. I love Tucson in the winter, but there's no place like home at the other times of the year.
So here we are, on New Year's Day, comfortable in our park model at the Voyager RV Resort in Tucson. I remember the family and friends, the sights and sounds of our road trip. I remember the past and I am grateful for that. But there's no place like the present.