I take the dogs from their snuggled spots on the hotel room bed out into the frigid air. We go downstairs, around the building, to the grassy area along the river where there is plenty of leaves and bushes. I try to get near the water for a decent photo without leading Piggy over the edge. Back through the parking lot to the car and Caleb is there, with door open, to let them in the backseat after having put all our stuff back into its place.
We had planned on driving to Crater Lake to snowshoe around the rim, but decided to skip it because 1) there is only nine inches of snow (not a very good excuse), and 2) we have family to see in La Grande that is still over eight hours away (and we’ve been invited to the live nativity they are participating in). As we make our way through California, I wave at all the mountains – Lassen Peak, Mt Shasta, Black Butte – whether they are covered in snow, clouds, or both.
Into Oregon, and there are more mountains as seen across snow-covered farm land and Upper Klamath Lake. It’s the fluffy white stuff within reach that will have us pulling over to touch with our eyeballs, boots, paws, and parts. I take pictures of the contrasting colors of the plants in their colorless blanket; of Sparky eating snowballs that Caleb tossed in the air for him; and of Piggy making ice-cold lemonade and following her shadow.
I expected more snow, but am appreciating the ease of the drive as we make good time heading north. I let Caleb drive at 2:00 pm so I could eat some caramel/cheese bugles (road-trip junk-food) and get some reading done. I’m not able to turn one page because I can’t keep my eyes off the view. It makes me sad to have to pass all this beautiful scenery without stopping, but we’ve gotten multiple warnings of snow and ice, so I don’t want to be on the road after dark anymore than we have to be.
There are golden cows in the wet field under a gray sky on the 97. Winding across Oregon on the 26 we pass: midget-faced brown cows, through a photographic canyon, the John Day Fossil Beds, pink-tipped bushes tinged with light from the sun. Parts of the bright blue sky peek through the heavy clouds and my body fills with bad emotions as I fight the urge to get out and experience the countryside and all its great qualities and lush life – and to make digital copies on my camera for later.
It’s in these moments as I struggle with not being behind the wheel that I determine that it’s better for the both of us if I do the driving when I’m not being driven to the hospital or passing out from exhaustion. It makes it easier to bypass these scenes when I know I’m in control and it’s what we have to do. Plus I love driving and taking pictures from behind the wheel and it makes Caleb feel needed when he can steer from the passenger seat. He will drive us to La Grande.
It begins to darken on the 7 (a road that goes by three other names) and that hardens the snow on the road that wasn’t melted by the fleeting sun. It’s a bit slow going, but we arrive at the little town of Bethlehem in Union County, first through the exit, and then led by the glowing light of the North Star to the gate guarded by the Romans. We arrived in the middle of the event, 6:30 pm, to which I thought we would’ve missed the first half of the activities, but alas this isn’t a church play.
Our journey from here will continue on foot. We make our way on the ice past the Roman cavalry and infantry into the stone-walled establishment. We make our way to the Census Taker and are soon greeted by Sherri (Caleb’s mom’s cousin that was working in Naomi’s Woolen Shop until our arrival). She agrees to show us around and is so glad we made it – so are we! I let Caleb carry the sticker book that will hold proof of our visit to the 24 different stops available to us – minus the stage and refreshment booth.
There is the Temple where you can hear the Word, the inn that is booked months in advance, and the manger with a family and their loud goat, the carpenter shop where hammers are being made, the blacksmith who is making a crowbar, and the Go Fish Market where a kind elderly woman hands out frozen fish and doughy morsels. There are the Wise Men with their camel, the shepherds with their llama and goat, and the town beggar that is dressed in fancy rags.
Inside is the apothecary offering seeds and herbs; food market with fruits and veggies; money changers taking our green paper and turning it into Roman gold; the spin, dye, and weave shops turning plants and animal hair into baskets, coats, and rugs. Hadassah is home and offers for Caleb to play his shofar – which he does loudly. We also visit the synagogue to read the scripture, the potter to see his hand-carved bowls, the baker to taste his rye and sourdough, and the candle maker for vary-colored sticks of light.
There is also a sacrificial cage with turkeys inside that are nice and soft to pet. To finish the night we make our way by the stage and audience to the cookies and cider. We get to meet Sherri’s niece Cora Mae learning how to spin and Sherri’s husband Leroy with his herd. Her van broke down and she was able to get a ride home. We help dig her car out of the snow and Caleb pushes it out of the driveway so she can pick up Leroy. We will wait in the house admiring her bookshelf, fish tank, photo wall, quilt, and fridge magnets.
The snow is thick in their yard and the dogs find it less than pleasant trying to hike and potty at the same time. Her dogs are secured by child gate to the back of the house and she puts up another to keep our dogs away from the other canine. We have a guest room to ourselves with a space heater and plenty of blankets. I just start to read as the homeowners arrive. Sherri makes us some Russian Tea, a special recipe, to sip on while we converse.
We talk about family, engineering, chores, dogs, grandmas, recipes, piano lessons, daughters, traveling, work, school, and more. While we are busy flapping our gums Sparky has made himself at home and starts to snoop. He finds a golf ball under their stereo equipment and a red rubber ball in a wooden box near the wood stove. Piggy finds a warm spot between me and a couch pillow. This will continue until 10:30 pm when it’s decided that we should start making plans for sleep – cups back in the kitchen and it’s bedtime.