Saturday, June 24, 2017

Brookses in the West (the one where we blew tires and the AC broke and the wheels in general came off)

And also the last post...

Day 20

Well. This day was one for the books.

We left Zion at Preston's favorite time: early. 

We went through the south/west entrance because you can't get a ranger escort through the narrow tunnel until 8 am which does not fall into the "early" time slot.

But it was fine, only added a few miles to our drive and meant we could arrive at Mesa Verde in Colorado much earlier. Again with the early.

There aren't interstates in that part of Utah or really in a lot of places we have been over the past week, and a few of the roads we travelled weren't the best. 
So we pulled into Kanab, Utah waiting to turn right at a light when the guy next to us did the universal motion for "roll your window down" (Will our kids even get what that means? I barely get it being as young as I am and all.) and goes, "Did you know you got a blow out on your trailer?"

Well, nope. 


We pulled into a car wash to assess the damage.

This isn't good.

There was a McDonald's a block away, so the girls and I walked there and got a biscuit and waited on the call that we were ready to get back on the road.

When Preston did call, it was to say he noticed a TIRE SHOP right across the street and was getting a new tire put on.

This could have happened on that horrible deserted New Mexico road from back around day 12, but it happened in a cute little town, across from a cute little tire shop, with a cute little mechanic who changed the tire in five minutes. (He might have been big and burly. I don't know. Never saw him.) Thank-you, Lord.

We got back on the road, heading for four corners where people line up to do this:

We are in Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona AT THE SAME TIME!

And remarkably it is about 111 degrees in all those states! 

So that little stop didn't last long, although there were Native American vendors set up all around since four corners is part of the Navajo nation, and we probably could have spent the day there. ("You shouldn't have spent all your souvenir money back at Day 0.5. Let this be a lesson to you! Now quit whining and get back in the car, Martha!")

We only had about fifty miles to go to get to our campground in Cortez, Colorado, easy peasy.

A truck whooshes past us.

There's also a huge gust of wind at the same moment.

I'm just gonna pull over here and check on the rubber I see flying off the camper...

Another blow out.

Now I'm not blaming the completely reckless semi-driver or the inconsiderately timed gust of wind, but actually I am. 

Preston says that's ridiculous. 

Hot bumpy roads (I saw a blurb last night about how plastic mailboxes are actually melting in the west where they are experiencing a week long almost unprecedented heat wave which we were in the middle of) and tires that had seen better days are apparently more at fault. 

And this time there was no cute little tire shop. Just a big burly man doing his thing on the side of a busy Colorado highway on roads that probably reach upwards of 120 degrees. 

I love him.

We went straight to Wal-Mart and bought three new tires, thus completing the set started back in Kanab.

We were ever so glad to get to the campground, which was a KOA, which means it's going to be nice, and have laundry, and a pool and the nice guy on the golf cart will drive around passing out glow bracelets at dusk and stop and chat about the mountain you can see that looks like a Native American who has passed away and will rise again someday, according to legend. 

Can you see it? 

So we have this great place with great hosts and the worst has passed.

Except I woke up in the middle of the night pouring sweat. And the AC was squealing. I punched Preston awake.

Everything has been so great, but in the last 24 hours THE WHEELS ARE REALLY COMING OFF HERE, MAN! (Literally) 

So at daylight he climbs onto the top of the camper and finds the AC frozen. 
We shut it down and it thawed out in about half a second. Crisis averted. For now...

Day 21

We were a few miles from the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park (which we got in for free, due to our fourth grader-it pays to have kids after all) but once you go through the entrance you are still 25 winding, vertical, car sick, I'm dying, miles from the actual cliff dwellings. 

 had to put my head between my knees so I wouldn't puke. The views are amazing but I'm not sure they are worth the drive. 

We had booked two tours, one to Cliff Palace, which was basically a short hike down some stone steps, see the dwelling, then climb some ten foot ladders out. Our ranger was great, so knowledgeable and personable, the dwellings and the technology are really unbelievable, the life of the ancestral Puebloans was hard in the 1200s and yet it is evident they thrived. I thoroughly recommend this tour for anyone. Another amazing thing is a rancher stumbled upon these dwellings one cold winter day almost two hundred years ago. Can you imagine? I probably would have freaked out.

We had also booked a tour of Balcony House.

Before we began the tour our ranger dutifully explained all that would be causing our imminent deaths. 

The girls' eyes were huge and kept looking to me for reassurance. I kept looking to Preston who kept refusing to meet the eyes of his family who wanted to quit.

Several people did abandon ship when they saw the 32 foot ladder. 

But not the Brookses.

The girls climbed it like champs, hustling to the top and having a chat with the ranger, who happened to be a Franklin High School Class of '93 alum, before their mother made it up. He moves back to Leiper's Fork in the off-season where he and his wife are building a house on her family's land. We didn't have a lot to talk about or anything.

Sidebar- the Rangers we have encountered along the way have all been awesome. They are passionate and knowledgeable and now our oldest wants to be one, despite the fact that we told her she'd have to travel. She would be great at it and has practiced giving us tours in the camper at night. I'm stunned at how well she has listened and can recall. Really all three of them. This is the age to do stuff like this. BOOK A TRIP if you are in these golden parenting years. Do it now.

After we climbed the ladder and listened about the kivas and saw an original 800+ year old balcony (TOTALLY ORIGINAL! I'm glad it didn't fall on their heads.) we went through an 18 inch tunnel (this is the part I was worried about seeing as my hips weren't 18 inches on March 11, 1979) and then onto a cliff face.

A cliff face.

Did you catch that? 

I really feel like this part was glossed over because we were on the edge of a Cliff. Face. 

There was a piddly little chain and we were supposed to be enthralled by using the same foot and handholds the ancestral Puebloans would have used to climb to the top of the mesas every day to farm and history and whatever but I was melting down a little. A lot. 

But we kept cheerleading, telling our small children they could do it, we were right here, no worries, you are almost there (The first time I've ever lied to them.)

Then there was one more ladder, which if it had come unbolted or if we had let go would have sent us to the bottom of Soda Canyon. 

These pictures really can't even begin to explain it.

I just know when we all got off that top ladder I was shaking and we were high-fiving each other and Preston said to me, "I would have NEVER done that when I was seven. Would you?" 

And I was like, "If I'd known the reality of what those last two minutes entailed I wouldn't have done it today!" 

But it was one of those experiences that will stick with them, and us, that built up a little courage doing something we didn't actually have to do so sometime when courage is required, they have known real fear in a dangerous situation and have pressed through. 

It was the best note to end this trip on. 

Days 22-24

We are still driving, on our third and last day of nothing but driving and reaching a campground and swimming for a few hours, sleeping and then driving some more. 

And over these last days of driving we have accidentally ripped the top of the camper by parking under a tree and the check engine light has come on and the AC froze again and we are praying for the next 500 miles and can't wait to pull into Redneck Headquarters.

And start planning for next year.

Grace and until next time,

P.S. After doing this for 24 days I feel qualified to offer some suggestions, some repeating what has already been said in a previous post, but I feel strongly about this:

1. Travel to places that will have life impacts on your kids. 

2. Research where you are going, watch documentaries, check out library books. Otherwise they have no frame of reference when you get there. 

3. Take screens and let them watch and play a lot, but also take audio books and stories. Focus of the Family (regardless of what you think of the organization) produces stellar radio theater. We have been listening to "The Chronicles of Narnia," and it's so well done. Top-notch. We have also listened to "Anne of Green Gables" and have "The Secret Garden" in the queue. You will forget you aren't watching a movie but merely listening. And you will also delight at the things you would have missed seeing had your face been buried in a screen. Writing a blog post.

4. Snacks are key to everyone's happiness. 

5. Patience is key to everyone's happiness.

6. Chat up anyone and everyone. Every single person has a story and every conversation is a chance to show Jesus. We met some awesome people. (In particular some new friends we exchanged numbers with who are originally from the Netherlands, came here in the '70s, opened a restaurant, lost it all in the '00s, bought a travel trailer and a food truck, named it "Schnitzel's and Giggles" and travel the country doing fairs and Oktoberfests. They will be coming to Nashville in October and are looking to hire some help for 48 hours. Let me know if you are interested.)

7. Teach them to chat up other kids. The girls had a ball with kids from Connecticut, Michigan, Colorado, West Virginia, California and Utah. They were convinced the high dive wasn't scary by a six year old from Mexico in a tutu. They won't forget these experiences or the names of the kids. Especially the seven year old named Lillian, too! Isn't that weird, Mommy? And they showed Jesus, too, to some kids who live outside the buckle of the Bible Belt, and who won't forget them either. 

8. Make your kids write down what you did that day and save brochures. Ours just did simple bullet points on index cards this time. They have already started pulling out memorabilia from the early days and laughing at memories.

9. Roll with it. Whatever it is. We really only had three tense moments in 24 days of 24 hour togetherness. We have more than that in a week at home. And finally...

10. Go. Book it. Make it happen. You will not regret it. 

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