Friday, June 20, 2014

Road Trip, Part 2

Two weeks ago I wrote during the kids’ naptime about our trip into Havasu.  When they woke up I wasn’t quite ready to post it so I saved it (for the 3rd time.)  After dinner I came back to finish and post and it was gone, gone, gone.  Tech Guy came to do his usual magic and still couldn’t resurrect it.  It is so hard for me to find time to write in the first place that I am doubly grieved at needing to repeat it and yet I crave the chronology and the expression.  So here I go again.  I have such a love/hate relationship with computers!

In the morning in Beatty, Nevada after a coffee in the gazebo 14-03-24-08-21-08Hand a look through the eerily empty casino we started out for Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, and Lake Havasu City.  We chose to go a bit east to Boulder City on Route 93 rather than drop down on 95 to Needles.  The benefit was getting to see Hoover Dam and the fantastic piece of engineering that the bridge is.

First, though, we had to drive through Las Vegas and after the lovely deserted  roads we’d been on14-03-24-10-34-07H14-03-24-10-34-55H the 8 lanes and interchanges were nerve wracking.  My two impressions besides the race of traffic were the really strong effort that Las Vegas has made to bring art into their concrete freeway system (mosaic walls and metal sculptures and decorative landscaping)14-03-24-11-19-13H and secondly, the excitement of seeing the big casinos from the freeway as we careened past, me hanging out the window with the camera and Tech Guy asking me to check the map for exit numbers. 14-03-24-11-21-37H14-03-24-11-22-11H

Once we were out of the downtown I was sort of horrified to see hillsides filled with beige houses, row after row after row.  Some were quite large but they were still packed in together and as brown as the dusty hillside. 



I did find Boulder City quite charming, at least what we saw of the little downtown.  It seemed to have a quaint neighborhood feeling.  We drove down around a corner and spied Lake Mead which was created by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River.                           


Lake Mead14-03-24-12-11-33H14-03-24-12-12-24H

“More Lake than the Eye Can See”

And then we saw overhead our first glimpse of the bridge as we drove down to the dam.14-03-24-12-28-14H14-03-24-12-28-21H14-03-24-12-28-33H14-03-24-12-28-43H

In the photo below you can see on the far right center the visitors’ information center. The scale of the cleft is enormous. 14-03-24-12-32-43H_thumb5514-03-24-12-34-45H_thumb7

And here is the Colorado River flowing down on its way to the Gulf of Mexico (although I learned that because of overuse in farmlands and development in Southern California, Arizona, and Mexico the river has all but disappeared and the delta, once a rich habitat, has nearly dried up.)


Hoover Dam was built between 1933 and 1935.  We drove across it amid throngs of sightseers.  14-03-24-12-32-54H

Standing there on the rim I could feel the immensity of the height and depth but I didn’t think about the statistics that I have since read: how much concrete was used to make this dam, how thick it is, how much water pressure it holds back, how increasing the pressure in the canyon caused 600 earthquakes the first year the dam was built.  Standing there was just a “Wow!  How did they ever do this?” sensation.14-03-24-12-33-17H_thumb6

On the high side of the dam the water line shows the effects of several years of drought in California and Arizona.  The water line is 100 feet down, the lowest it has been since the dam was built. 



As we left the dam we got to drive over the bridge that I had so admired from below: really, it is visually much more impressive to see it from below than to drive across it.  It is so freeway-like when you are going across it that you don’t realize you are suspended high in the air on spindly little concrete pillars which might tip sideways at any moment if an earthquake occurred.  Yes, I did think of that.

And soon we crossed the state line to Arizona, our real destination.


I have a dear friend since college days. Since sharing an academic major we have gone on to sharing the growth in our families and all the ups and downs of life.  I have had some of the best deep laughs of my life with her even in the throes of young family life. She has the kindest heart and I marvel at her goodness.  She has weathered storms without losing her heart and I am truly amazed by her.  We were both Northwesterners until a few years ago when she became a snowbird.   This was my first glimpse into what life in the Southwest is like.

It is like Blue Sky!14-03-25-07-14-17R

It is like Warm Mornings when you can sit outside to drink your coffee at 6 AM!


It is like Retirement Living, tanned golfers and pickle ball players! 14-03-25-12-44-50R

It is like Enjoying the Fruits of your Labor—all those years of the 8 to 5 routine and now it’s time to enjoy recreation and friends and hobbies.


We stayed in their 5th Wheel “casita”, a charming guesthouse.  More about Lake Havasu to come….

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Very Sad Day

Tuesday  6/10/14

I was feeding the kids breakfast when I heard the first siren a few blocks away.  Not an uncommon experience since I live on a busy street near two other   thoroughfares.  But then there was a second siren, still a ways off, and a fire truck with its insistent tooting at an intersection.  In a minute there were police cars speeding down my street with lights flashing and sirens blowing.  I thought, “Wow, there must be a bad accident up there.” I was assuming some morning commuter had missed a light in his rush to get to work, or had turned in front of someone she hadn’t seen coming. I thought for a moment how quickly an ordinary day can turn into a nightmare for people involved in an accident. 

In front of my house, students were walking to the school across the street and parents were dropping off their kids at the curb. Commuter and school traffic pulled over to let the ambulances and emergency vehicles pass.  Many unmarked police cars were flying by, too, with their hidden lights flashing. It brought to mind  the last time I had seen this many emergency vehicles called into action: years ago a police officer was shot and they did a manhunt not too far from my house.  At the time, my kids were outside on the trampoline and  I remember we began counting the 26 police cars going up our street.

So yesterday my husband called on his way to work having heard on the radio that there was a shooting at Reynolds High School.  No details were available yet.  I turned on the TV news to catch what I could without making the grandkids aware.  Mostly there was guarded speculation: no one knew how many shooters or victims there were.  The school was on lockdown and a report that a teacher had been shot was circulating. The TV cameras showed from a distance the 2,000 students being led single file out of the building with their arms raised to their heads.  They were all searched and questioned.  Worried parents started arriving at the school but were prevented from going near it.  Everyone was texting their kids, and receiving texts. We learned that the students had been told to text their parents but not to call them. We heard that there was one victim and one gunman, also dead, and an injured teacher. The news reported sometime later  that the victim  was a girl which turned out to be incorrect.

In the meantime I texted my own kids (including 3 teachers) about what was happening and heard back that the middle school where my daughter teaches in the same district was also on lock down—three blocks away from the high school.  The report they had was that there were 3 shooters and one of them was still at large in the neighborhood of the middle school.  Students in the middle school had been texted by their parents about the shooting in the high school and anyone with a sibling at the high school was understandably worried.  As a matter of fact, the spouse of the teacher injured at the high school is a teacher at the middle school. But in a lock down situation no one can leave or enter the building and the teachers’ role was to comfort and assure the students and help them to wait through the 6 hours of uncertainty without knowing the facts themselves. 

This beautiful sunny day was the day before the last day of school, with kids dressed in shorts and excited about their summer plans.  The day before had been their field day with races and relays and teachers and students laughing and cheering each other on. The high school graduation was two days away, the culmination and celebration of 12 years of friendships, schooling, and growing up.  How quickly an ordinary day can be overturned!  Time after time students told reporters about coming to school on the bus just like they did everyday, or getting dropped off by parents on their way to work and making their way to their first period class.  Normal.  And then they heard the ‘fireworks’ as they assumed it was, and then the stern lockdown procedure on the PA, “This is not a drill. Repeat, this is not a drill.” They had to remain perfectly silent in their classroom with the blinds drawn and the lights off for about an hour while hearing the police move about in the halls.

In the afternoon the police released the identity of the victim, a 14 year old Freshman boy.  He had attended the middle-school for the past 3 years and was well-liked by everyone. He was on the soccer team and active in sports. A nice kid, everyone said. Well-liked.

The news reporters kept saying “one victim and one gunman”.  “Pray for the family of the boy who was shot”.  “A grieving family tonight…”  But I was thinking about the other dead person, the gunman and his family, too. There were 2 grieving families in deep shock over the devastation to their lives, one innocently and one in ignominy.  I was guessing that the gunman was a fellow student because a student told a reporter that the police questioned her about seeing anyone on her school bus carrying a guitar case, which she had.  Only a fellow student would be getting on a school bus, therefore…

But it wasn’t until today, Wednesday, that I learned the shooter was a 15 year old boy, a student at the high school also, a boy with siblings and parents who worried about him when they couldn’t reach him by texting yesterday.  He died from a self-inflicted gunshot. So far no motive nor any relationship between the 2 boys is known.  The gunman came heavily armed with an assault rifle and a semi-automatic pistol and a knife and dozens of rounds of ammunition.  It could have been much, much worse.

But for these two families, it can’t get any worse.  And I am deeply saddened for both of families and both young boys whose lives were abruptly cut off.  I don’t know what demons haunted the shooter’s mind or what led him to this terrible desperation, but I feel pity for him that no one saw it and reached out to help.  Already this situation has become a forum for gun–control opinions and politicizing but I wish we would spend as much thought on how we can improve the quality of life for our young people, provide discerning counselors along the way and affordable counseling for families in need. 

Let’s love each other more.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Back Roads

I love taking trips and seeing new things.  I love seeing nature differ from place to place.  I love these out-of-time-and-space experiences that punctuate my routine life. 

On Spring Break Ron and I had a wonderful road trip to Lake Havasu and the Grand Canyon.  It originally was a weekend plan for me to go and see my college girlfriend in Lake Havasu but during the discussion of ‘would I fly into Las Vegas or Phoenix’ it grew into a driving trip with husband and stretched into two weeks rather than one weekend. (These things seem to happen to me frequently, something growing into more than I had planned.  Someday I will tell you how painting the kitchen cupboards became a whole kitchen remodel or how buying bark dust for the garden became a wall to hold the bark dust in and then a sidewalk and then a new driveway.)

We planned to tent camp at the Grand Canyon but got a new air mattress for the van just in case of snow. We call it “Minimalist Camping”.  I took one pan and a one burner propane stove and a few utensils and a lot of easy meal plans.  Tomato soup, that kind of thing.

We were late getting away on our first day and only made it to Klamath Falls, about 5 hours away.  Since we didn’t have a campground reservation we thought we would just stop at the local Walmart like other minimalist RVers do. I had already realized I’d forgotten my toothbrush so it worked all around.  We made our pit stop, brushed our teeth, and then went looking for the dark corner of the Walmart lot.

Wait.  There IS no dark corner of the parking lot.  They have floodlights all over. We wanted to be in the same general area as other over-nighters for security’s sake but not too close for privacy’s sake.  We quickly realized that one big benefit of an RV or a van outfitted for sleeping is curtains.  I am sure that we gave quite a comedy show as we undressed for bed inside our sleeping bag. On the air mattress!  Little did we know that it would have been better to leave all our street clothes on since we froze, froze, froze all night long.  And having to get dressed IN the sleeping bag in the morning when you are dying to get to the bathroom is not so comical.  We had to race out of the Walmart parking lot to find an open gas station for me because Walmart didn’t open until 8! 

It was 29 degrees in K Falls and we had frost covering the inside of our windows.  We had to scrape the inside of the windows!  14-03-23-06-21-50R14-03-23-07-15-14H 

Thus began a glorious day of traveling back roads.  We had determined not to do freeways and we frequently commented how wonderful having roads to ourselves was, and how close we were to the points of interest.  We drove the length of Nevada and half of Arizona seeing very few other cars.14-03-23-07-41-04H14-03-23-07-42-07H14-03-23-07-46-56H14-03-23-07-50-27H14-03-23-08-56-03H




We ate granola bars for breakfast washed down by orange juice from the Adin General Store which was a walk through history in itself.  We had cheese sticks and peanut butter crackers and yoghurts in the car and didn’t plan to need restaurants. However, at midday we came across this sign :14-03-23-14-55-57H

and we couldn’t resist a fresh squeezed lemonade. (Besides, I needed a bathroom break .) We chatted with the owner and family who just bought this place in December and are trying to make a go of it.  I believe it is on reservation land.  The only action in town we saw was 2 police cars pulling over nearly everyone passing through town.  Good thing we slowed for lemonade—and boy, was it good!  Oh, my!  So good. We felt inspired to get a burrito as well.14-03-23-14-44-03R14-03-23-14-45-42H14-03-23-14-59-37H

We drove through Nevada all day and decided to stay in a motel that night to get a shower before meeting our friends. 






After a day populated by only sagebrush and an occasional truck, this motel seemed other-worldly and bizarre. It was a casino, which we don’t care about, but it had a hot tub which appealed to Ron.    


In the light of day it appeared less weird although all the people had disappeared when the sun rose:


14-03-24-09-14-14H14-03-24-09-23-12RAnd now we are off to meet our friends in Lake Havasu, by way of Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam.  But that story is for another day.