Road Trip of Christmas Past

Dad has already posted about my arrival and first day on the road and looks forward to what I’ll say about the trip — the one he invited me on just days before going. I was excited, of course, and glad to go until I remembered that I have a job and had volunteered to watch my friend’s dog while they went on a trip of their own to see family further east for the holidays.

Caleb’s maternal grandmother had passed away and he was already in Montana to soothe his mother’s broken heart, so I was even more so excited when another friend offered to watch the dog so I could go and the boss gave the go-ahead for Thursday off so I could leave a day early and have a break from all the driving. I leave later than planned and pass through Yuma without a speeding ticket.

I walk in the door like I live there with my camera, pillow, and coat — ready for adventure. Dad shows me some old photos that I haven’t seen before, some behind-the-scenes on his blog, how to make Sundubu Jjigae (kimchi and tofu stew), and his favorite neighborhood holiday lights and decorations. I’m always so glad to be included in these processes and wonder why I don’t visit more.

We’ll finish the night with an action movie in the theater that sneaks philosophy into its story telling; which gives Dad an excuse to eat popcorn, me a reason to listen to him talk excitedly about the points of the film and his old company after, and Caroline the role of making sure we get to bed before sunup. Lights off, goodnights said repeatedly, and fart jokes made, we can sleep.

Nothing like leftover Brussels sprouts for breakfast after catching up with my husband on the phone and then meeting one of Dad’s friends who lives in Lebanon, but makes time to exchange hours long conversations over a cup of coffee in Phoenix. Caroline and I will find our own table and topics to keep us entertained until it’s time to get on the road.

I’ll set the scene — Dad is driving on the rain filled highway, Caroline is reading Lord of Dark Places (read the reviews or listen to Better Than Food), behind Dad is camera gear and snacks, and I’m sat beside that looking out the window at waterfalls as we make our way to lunch in Miami. We’ll stop for a caffeine refill as Hal Bennett leaves a cliffhanger of chapter one.

We near New Mexico and the Sandhill cranes are already in view. Part of being in the car is also being a part of the conversation. I’m still not taking sides but asking my readers — who of you have ever read on the last page of a book before reaching the end of the story? Do you feel that this ruins the mystery or sets you up for excitement about the journey to that destination?

A stretch of highway running through the western side of the state has high wind warning signs. Tonight those gusts of air will attack the car at 22 mph, but the vehicle’s persistence pays off with a dinner had at El Camino — the place where the Wise’s dine twice every time they stay in Socorro. After a day with these two, I’m grateful for the opportunity to see their little displays of affection.

This morning starts off like all the rest — open eyes, sit up, look for something; except we missed the first exit to Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Reserve and are saved by a dirt road that will get us lake side in time for the avian performance. People are here to watch the thousands of snow geese and cranes takeoff (hopefully at the same time), and to see the ducks, starlings, and bald eagle.

We’re here to watch the birds sit, eat, fly, land, swim, and chatter loudly. This is their migration path sanctuary and where we chose to be before the sun came up as it seems that’s the magic moment as the sun crests over the mountains and the birds take flight to carry on with their day somewhere else. We will return to the park after filling our bellies to watch javelina, the smallest one puffing his back hair.

How wonderful to share this long moment as we sit in the car, listen to birds, snack on fruits and gingerbread, and watch the clouds change shape on Christmas Day. We will park and continue to indulge in this feathered play land on foot as the starlings put on repeated murmuration shows and the sun dips behind the clouds as it nears the horizon.

There’s a lone bald eagle in a dead distant tree, a single duck eating in the wet weeds, two sisters screaming in childish fun, a husband and wife watching the fantastic sunset, and a daughter being kissed on the cheek by her loving father. We pair a dinner at El Camino with finishing the second chapter of Joe Market’s life, of which we are not catching the dull moments.

This evening will be filled with steam, conversation, drama, reading, writing, and photography. All this action, plus the lingering sound of birds, will coalesce in our minds and give us each our version of a nightmare — mine being a vocal jolt to join in with the screeching cats that have started a musical at our hotel room. In a blink, the night is over.

We get another chance to witness the miracle that is bird migration. I’m just amazed at their ability to move so smoothly and effortlessly in large numbers, something that people seem to stumble over in small groups. Perhaps that’s because we were given the gift of opinion and thought, and the freedom to choose whether or not to use our cerebellum.

We know where we’re going this time and though we do love being early there are others set up before us because the boardwalk moves tripods and they want the best shot. We stand beside them with frozen fingers in our gloves and loving smiles on our faces. Dad motions me closer to him so I can get a better view of the geese as they take off in waves. It’s not the same effect as en masse, but it’s amazing still.

Back in the car: Dad’s hands on the wheel, Caroline turning pages, and me in the backseat as we head west and back to our lives in the cities. The thoughts and emotions inside the car, inside the book, contrast with what is outside — a state trooper blocking the lane, snow covering the ground, closed pie shops and coffee cafes as chapter three comes to a finish.

I’ll see a coyote, but shout, “a fox!” as I wonder if I saw a wolf. Then I’ll see another. We finish the book, drink another coffee, and contemplate how to share our experience with others without downplaying the author’s ability to share what life is — simple and complex, neat and messy, free and contained, controlled and impulsive, and short. I notice some hikers among the cacti covered hills.

I’ll leave Phoenix with warm hugs, thin books, and small cookies — all different forms of love. I approach Dateland as darkness reaches me. I’ll close my eyes for 20 minutes before going back inside for a famous date shake. It won’t be till later that I’ll remember how disappointing their date-sour cream cookies are, but they do the trick to keep me going, through the fog in Alpine, to San Diego.

This entry was posted in Animals, Books, Family, Food, Holidays, Media, Photography, Plants, Travel, Water and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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