Sunday, November 9, 2008

On the Road . . . Continued

When last I wrote, Anna Mae and I had reached Ridgecrest on our way to Yuma, Arizona and Aunt Jean's. We drove most of Thursday to get to Yuma though that was not the plan. We thought we had 5 hours of driving ahead of us when we left Ridgecrest, but a number of factors made the trip take about 9 hours.

We were tootling along, making great time across the high desert, enjoying the Joshua trees, the stark mountains, and Harry Potter when I noticed a billboard for California Pizza Kitchen in Palm Springs. "Let's take a little side trip and go to lunch in Palm Springs," I said. Anna Mae was game, and it was only 10 miles out of the way (or so we thought).

We had a fantastic lunch sitting on the outdoor patio. We took pictures of each other successfully and not so successfully rolling pasta on forks with the help of big spoons per the "correct" way. We laughed at pigeons and people-watched. When we left, we asked for directions for getting to Highway 10 or Indyo.

The directions (as well as the question) were faulty, and we headed out on Highway 111 surface streets that took us through miles and miles and miles of desert towns, a little like El Camino Real on the Peninsula up North. The sights were great: gorgeous palm trees and bougainvillea, and Anna Mae was making notes in her journal and snapping pictures left and right. I would roll down the back window (electrically) so she could get better shots, but then the back window would not go up. We pulled into a gas station to see if something was caught. We found a little rock which we spent quite a while removing, but still the window would not go up. We also asked again for directions and this time we were sent Northeast toward Highway 10.

About this time, we decided to call Aunt Jean, and it was a good thing because she gave us the best directions yet. We turned around and were soon on the right track with Anna Mae in a sweatshrit and blanket to ward off the wind blowing in through the back window. We traveled through date farmland where we nearly hit a huge black stallion galloping suddenly and wildly across the road with a rider who managed to turn him just in time.

It was after dark when we got to Arizona, so we didn't get the traditional picture at the boarder crossing sign, but we did have a lovely dinner with Aunt Jean at the Olive Garden in the new Mall in Yuma, followed by a brief night time tour of town.

Next day, Anna Mae prepared pancakes for Aunt Jean and me. Then after tons of talk that kept zipping from one direction to another as Aunt Jean and I tried to fill each other in on years of family stories, we headed out to sightsee. We saw the Wetlands Park along the Colorado River and a monument to the Mormon Battalion (the same one that has a monument near Tuttletown and left it's name on Mormon Creek). Then we drove out into the farmlands where Aunt Jean grew up. Then we visited an Indian Casino run by the Quechan tribe that is actually two buildings with a sidewalk between them. One part of the casino is in Arizona and the other part is in California. You can play poker in the California casino but not in the Arizona one. Then we went to Fort Yuma and a little Mission Church followed by lots of time at the Yuma Territorial Prison. Somewhere in there we ate Mexican food for lunch.

Evening brought more story telling, with Anna Mae patiently exploring the backyard, reading, doing a little email, and listening to Aunt Jean and I visit. We had dinner at Home Town Buffet where my tiny granddaughter filled her plate 3 times. Where did all that food go???

On Saturday, we packed the car to head back to California. We spent a lot of time taping a thin sheet of Styrofoam to block the wind from coming through the gaping window. (I have an appointment to get the window repaired in Modesto next week.) However, our handiwork blew out in 3 blocks, and Anna Mae once again donned her sweatshirt. She took lots of pictures from her seat in the back of the VW of the sand dunes and gazillions of dirt bikes and ATVs as we crossed the desert.

Just north of San Diego, we met my cousin Terry at a shopping mall in Carlsbad. The mall was crowded with Saturday shoppers, and we had fun trying to guess which one was Terry since I hadn't seen her since 1981. Of course, when she walked up, we recognized her immediately. We sat in Starbucks and visited for an hour. Anna Mae again was the picture of patience while two older women gabbed.

Next was San Juan Capistrano where everything went smooth as silk. We drove off the freeway and found our motel immediately. We dressed for Mass and found the Basilica just blocks from the motel. The church was beautiful. Anna Mae chose a seat in the front row of the huge church where the 6pm vigil Mass that we attended was offered in Spanish. Attending the Spanish Mass was also Mae's idea, and I'm so glad she made this choice. The church was full. Crying babies and the voices of small children served as a back drop to the beauty of Mass being offered in a foreign language before a spectacularly ornate altar.

Next stop was Marie Calendar's, one block from the hotel. We took our pie to go after eating soup and salad for dinner and went back to the motel to soak in the hot tub before eating it. I could hardly read I was so sleepy, but Anna Mae kept reading long after I gave up and closed my eyes so engrossed was she in Harriet the Spy.

Soon I'll wake her to set out on the last leg of our journey--the road home.

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