Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Brookses in the Wild, etc. West

Day 11

When you ask Preston what time he wants to pull out of a campground and head to the next one the time is always the same said in the exact same monotone: "Early."

So we usually leave when he has brought me enough coffee, which can be anywhere between 6 am and 8 am. 

We pulled out of Balmorhea, Texas around 7 am and headed straight north into New Mexico towards the U.F.O. Museum in Roswell, where in 1947 some ranchers found a flying saucer that apparently crashed and called in the military who then participated in a giant Trump-sized cover up by gathering up the alien bodies and putting out a press release saying there was nothing to see here, just a weather balloon. 

Um, ok.

The museum basically offered multiple framed newspaper clippings from the weeks around that event and a few paper-mache saucers and alien bodies and a gift shop where two of our three somewhat oddly named children were able to find alien keychains with their names on it. Score!

We moved on from there pretty quickly and started the longest drive of the trip. Not so much in hours but in no one lives here this is a deserted waste land why on earth is there even a road and if we break down we will surely perish here in the middle of the New Mexican desert because no one has ever driven on this road before nor will they again so we are GONNA DIE OUT HERE! 

Seriously, get out your Rand-McNally and look at the stretch of highway 285 between Roswell and I-40. There are two tiny towns, Vaughn and Encino, and "towns" is a lot more credit than they deserve. They are mostly boarded up gas stations and broken windows and sadness. No civilization. 

But we made it. I felt like I had been holding every muscle tense and rigid for 140 miles and my head was splitting. Therefore parenting and wifing were out of the question, so we got checked into our campsite in Albuquerque, and I went to Walmart for Swiss cake rolls and French onion dip and alone time, and Preston and the girls spent the evening in the pool. 

We all gathered in the camper to watch the Preds get the Stanley Cup stolen from them while eating supper and then slept the sleep of the utterly exhausted.

(I realize I have mentioned on more than one occasion how tired we all are. Make no mistake, this is not a vacation. It is so fun and the best thing we have ever done, but it is work. We have only eaten out twice which means I'm still getting meals and packing lunches to eat on the road, Preston has to do things with dump stations and sewage hoses and traveling 5000 miles over 25 days means we are hauling across this country. But even with those things, the first half of this trip is going down as the best thing we have done. The second half is just beginning, so there's still a chance for everything to fall apart.) 

Day 12

Albuquerque sits at the feet of the picturesque Sandia Mountains, so we headed up to the top, Sandia Crest, to look out over the whole city. On the way up there is a museum I researched called Tinkertown. It is sort of indescribable. Basically this guy who liked to tinker with anything and everything, who bought into the saying that everything is everything else, who never saw a piece of trash in his life (in a good way) and who also liked to do wood carvings sort of turned his already strange house into a museum. There is stuff everywhere you look and display after display of carved miniatures. It hardly costs anything to visit and is definitely worth a stop. They ask you to put a pin in the world map in your hometown, and while Nashville was taken Franklin is now proudly represented by a blue pin.

The creator passed away in the early 2000s from Ahlzeimer's, but even to the end he was tinkering. In order to convince him not to drive anymore his wife convinced him to tinker with his jeep, which is now covered in pennies because he said he was "trying to turn it into a Lincoln." 

We continued up the mountain for fourteen more winding miles, ears popping and head exploding as we climbed higher and higher. When we got to the top, Sandia Crest, 10600 feet up, there were views like I don't ever remember seeing. It was also forty degrees colder than at the campground which no one had factored into our picnic plans, so snap a few photos and down the mountain we went. (I feel like our photos are terrible. There was just no way to do justice to the views)

We picnicked close to the ski slopes of Sandia, which always look beautiful and sort of eerily deserted to me in the summer months. The ski lifts frozen in place, the weed filled parking lot. Strange.

We spent the afternoon playing putt-putt and swimming and bicycling around. So there are some aspects of the trip that are vacationish, I guess.

Last night we piled on the bed to watch "McFarland" and give Preston some motivation for the upcoming cross country season. Back to back STATE CHAMPIONS perhaps?? 

Currently heading into Arizona to spend the day at Petrified Forest National Park and then camp in Flagstaff. The landscape is amazing, and we keep watching trains go past us. It's amazing because we can see the engine and the caboose and everything in between all at once.

And now, because this is my blog and I get to do what I want, I am going to offer some unsolicited advice: 


Do Disney and 30A and vacations where your only goals are to get tan and sleep.

But also take your kids and go see the world. I loved the Mark Twain quote in the first picture of this post and am going to get my brother to paint it on the wall above our map where we are putting push pins in the places we have been. 

Travel on the cheap. Camp and eat lunch meat. Buy bumper stickers for souvenirs. 

Or go big. Fly first class to Paris and find the restaurant with the most Michelin stars. Have an original Renoir shipped home. 

Either way you will be changing your family and therefore your community. Your kids will see that the way we do things isn't the right way. It's one way. They will hear different languages and experience being the minority for a change. You will be showing the creativeness of our Creator to your children (these red rocks are like nothing we got in Tennessee!). They will be able to visualize the places they learn and read about and actually remember when they saw the Alamo (a low, hot point for us) or stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon or watched the sailors, up before dawn, bringing in the morning catch or saw the pecan grove lined with workers picking the nuts that we buy in a bag already shelled on aisle 13. 

Also know they will complain and tell you to stop saying how beautiful everything is and that a 0.3 mile hike is too long and claim they miss the dog (even though they generally ignore him). 

But go anyways. Plan a trip. You will not regret it.

Addendum to that advice: some people are great at traveling with littles. We weren't. It was work and a headache. I didn't even like to go to the grocery store when they were 3, 23 months and newborn much less travel. So if you have littles, your time is coming. Just do the beach for the next few years. 

Even now I am a homebody, travel seems like work, I like my bed, as does one of our girls in particular. 

But once you get out there, wherever "it" is, it's such an amazing adventure. 

Or maybe everything is going to go to you-know-where in a handbasket over 
the next twelve days and we'll never leave Franklin again. 

Grace for the Weary Traveller, 


  1. I love traveling with your fam! Don't stop writing!

  2. We are just finishing 4500 miles in 19 days. Started with a trip to Denver for a convention. I wish I could write like you! Love your stories. Taos NM is awesome and theRed Rocks park in Denver. Please keep sharing.


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