Saturday, September 25, 2004

What We Did on Vacation

So we're driving on the most desolate stretch of freeway in California, unless you enjoy the noxious bovine excrement fumes that break the monotony. I have passed this same convoy of trucks, what, five times now? The trick is having young daughters. Young daughters with bladders the size of chick peas. "I hafta go potty!" is the battle cry of the day. Captain Daddy must heed the call or perish in battle.

We pull off at the first rest stop/gas station/fast food place we come to and let folks out to take care of business. Daddy stretches his legs (or, admittedly, visits the restroom) and waits for the girls. Then back on the road to pass the same convoy for probably the sixth time.

You guessed it: It's vacation time! This is our last day on the road, which means it's the longest road day on the schedule. We're doing just over six hundred miles today, or, mathmatically, approximately seventy five miles between potty stops. Sometimes, through a miracle of planning, we can even squeeze in a food stop during the potty break.

We have been visiting some of the prettiest country God ever created. The Trinity area of northern California contains the mountains of the Shasta area, with lakes and rivers that take the breath away, and all the tall timber anyone but a conservationist could ever want. We did note with concern, however, that venerable Shasta Lake is at its lowest point in many decades. Proof that California is in the throes of a serious drought. In fact, there was one point where it appeared that a small portion of the lake had been cut off from the main lake as we crossed a bridge. Sad, indeed.

The mornings and evenings were brisk. Dry mountain air with temps down in the forties. The days were pleasantly warm. Sweater weather at times, but beautiful sunshine all around. In fact, the only rain we've encountered was during driving times. Visits to old logging towns reminded us of the delicate balance between man and nature - a balance not very well maintained. The trees are still losing. But one wonders. How exactly do people sustain a living in an area such as this? It's a mystery that probably will not be answered to my satisfaction anytime soon.

We have visited waterfalls that, although not very large, are still beautiful to see. One must beware of internet brochures, though. "An easy 20 minute hike from the Lower Falls to the Middle Falls that children can do." What the internet failed to mention is that this is not a one way hike where you can be picked up by car at the other end, UNLESS you're also willing to hike UP the switchbacks for another 20 minutes to get to the vista point 500 hundred feet above you. The internet also failed to mention that the 20 minutes they quote are for an Olympic distance runner in prime condition. Since I'm more of an armchair bowling type than an Olympic athlete, this hike took closer to two hours. Fortunately, we ignored the internet brochure and started from the Middle Falls, going DOWN the switchbacks, then hiking to the Lower Falls. The girls loved the hike, although my older daughter was a bit pre-occupied with the idea that our walkie talkies weren't working. We had personal radios (two mile range - strictly line of sight) to communicate with Mommy who waited for us at the end of the trail. It wasn't until we were within, oh, three quarters of a mile before we could actually talk to Mommy, and this caused my seven year old considerable stress. Also, my four year old got VERY tired toward the end of the journey. Still made it, though. Quite a trooper!

So, today we find ourselves driving from beautiful tall timber country to smoggy, grimey Los Angeles, and thence on to Ventura County for one last overnighter. Aside from the innumerable potty stops, the girls really are terrific travellers. They've entertained themselves admirably until sundown. Now they're snoozing. Mommy and I just got excited when we saw the Los Angeles County marker on the freeway. That means we've conquered the infamous Grapevine, and there will be no further leapfrogging trucks to bar our way.

Fortunately, I'm not going straight back to work after this vacation. At least, I'm not reporting to the office right away. Work you can't avoid. Mom-in-Law is visiting now, and tomorrow we begin the arduous task of putting our home "office" in order. This is the extra room in our home that we long ago designated as "Mommy's Office." It's supposed to be her command center from which she administers our home school, and will contain her scrapbooking materials. In reality, it has become our over-stuffed garage. We moved from a townhouse to a manufactured home three years ago, and we've never really recovered from losing a garage in the deal. We have a shed, and it's loaded to capacity. So, the extra room has taken the load. Wish me well. If we get this done in a few days, I can still have a couple of relaxation days. In the meantime, Mom-in-Law is champing at the bit to get started. She's the ant visiting a house full of grasshoppers. Winter is coming.

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