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travel with mytwo small kids and military hubby from Az back to MD
Well hello from Arizona,
Let's see it's a litttle after 8 am and we've been up for two hours. The sky is azure blue and we are looking for the high 60's today. The weather will be perfect for our trip to Ramsey canyon-known as the hummingbird capital of the US. The park is on the Mexican border. We are planning a simple hike to be followed by the boys now favorite lunch-quesadillas and chips at a little local cantina. Then we'll head to post and play on one of the great playgrounds. All in the background are these amazing mountains. I keep waiting for cowboys to come hurling down them scattering stones with their horses hooves. Which being horsephobic would probably terrify me! Hooper is nsisting horses are cows and we spent most of Wed in the Ft. Huachuca Museum looking at many pictures of horses and life size historical settings that in Hoop's eyes were Daddy men on moo cows.
Josh's writing a lot in his travel journal and has been sketching some of what he's seeing. Cactus/cacti are everywhere. We are still not used to the lack of grass and all the sun-I feel almost like Gollum. We've spent hours in the outdoor pool and hot tub each afternoon and the boys are so thrilled to have Daddy for bedtime.
We send our love to everyone and especially Susan-after traveling 7 hours and only one time zone with the kids-whoa baby you and these treks from Armenia are amazing. Mikey and Kate thanks for dealing with those crazy pets!
Gotta run and get on my short sleeved tee shirt and sunscreen-hahahahahahaaaaa!!!
Liz and family

Our tour of Az has continued, we've been to a fantastic old fashioned circus-a big top on a parking lot, with a tiny side show( snakes, spiders and a very small horse-made smaller by having to view it up on a platform. The boys loved it-and so
did we. They had dog acts and every performer did double duty as a crew member also.Josh and Kevin visited the Sonoran Desert Museum
with Kevin's cousin Albert who lives in a very cool place in Tuscon. Josh came back awed by all the stuff he saw. Hooper and I missed the trip because
he was under the weather. Saturday we drove down into Mexico, and drove
through about a half hour of rain. The rain is so odd here, it rolls across tthe mountains and spatters your windshield but the sides of your car are still dusty. After the rain the world smelled like wet clay-very clean and very green. Along the
roadside are these fragile looking golden flowers like snowdrops. But then after tthe rain they burst open into cups of brilliant yellow-it all happens so quickly. We drove along watching the rain and then it was suddenly over like falling off a cliff.
The scenery is really spectacular-rocks in every shade of pink and red-oxidizing in front of you. Huge boulders perched on the side of cliffs,everywhere you look the earth looks raw, almost meaty but you know how dry and crumbly it really is if you touch it.
Mexico was something I wiill never forget. You park in Nogales AZ-a simple town by American standards and you walk across the border-and SLAM you are in
Mexico whereas 25 feet away is America-here it is,and you know you are in a 3rd world situation. This is sensory overload-an incredibly cramped
marketplace where at every turn salespeople grab you both physically and verbally. The boys and I were touched a lot-our clothes tugged at, their hair touseled. But the men spoke almost exclusively to Kevin-which was odd for me. We had decided Kevin would hagggle since I didn't feel right about it. We were escorted into a stall and shown mounds of silver jewelry. Kevin told me to pick out what I liked and the shopkeeper kept his banter up with Kevin as he reassured me how lucky I was to have a soldier husband who was so generous-their conversation was amazing. Apparently they exchanged life histories since by the time we left the
salesman knew all our names, told Kevin we needed more children since he'd only made two( but what a blessing to have had two boys)and I have some very
nice silver earrings. The haggling was intense-and we ended up spending very little but gave the man a tip for a soda since we'd made his throat dry by making him bargain so hard.
Eating off the street vendors seemed like an epicurean tour for me since everything smelled so good, and the fruit looked amazing. But Kevin ushered us away from these treats worried that local water might have been splashed onto the surfaces.
the kids and I were getting overwhelmed whereas Kevin said this was like Egypt and he wasn't bothered at all.He settled on a very pretty restaurant where lots of Americanos were eating. A fountain splashed and parrots squawked as we ate
small ovoid chips that I would swear came from Synder's pretzels in PA. Our lunch was priced in pesos so Josh spent a lot of time converting the cost. Josh was alo mesmerized by the Spanish on the soda cans. As we ate I began to scan the
hillsides.High above the market was a very steep hill with small shacks clinging to it. You could see the cinderblock walls and the roofs made of scavenged tin sheeting.Families hanging out their wash around fires in oil cans. Shelters that people would not even store a car in here had families living inside. Lunch began
to lose its allure when a large family of street peddlars came through the restaurant. My guilt rose as children milled around our table offering us packetst of gum, and small painted turtles and beaded jewelry. Always accompanied with large brown eyes and earnest "pleases". I almost fell apart when a little guy to close in age to Hooper for my comfort held up a torn box lid with a few trinkets in it. The market seemed seedier and as we headed towards the border I bought some toys for the boys. Haggling was not an option and the teenager with three children clutching at her skirts squatted by the woolen blanket covered with handmade wooden toys made her asking price. We spoke at length wiith Josh about how lucky we all are to have such a rich life-a warm house, clean clothes.
Mexico taught us an important lesson in gratitude. We spent some watching the scenery change in silence. The ranches lining the highway revealed tough looking cows in palette of dark reds. They pawed at the scrubby grasses, their horns pointed and sharp looking made our dairy cows, back east, look like Disney characters. The day concluded with a tour of a 19th century winery-whose owner collected movie props. The boys ran around looking at gargoyles and Chinese dragons while Kevin and I talked wine with the hostess. Today we hiked into Garden canyon home of the original gardens that most recently( 150 years
ago)supplied Ft. Huachuca and centuries before that local native Americans grew crops near the small creek. We had planned to hike to the petroglyphs but for two small boys the creek held too much allure. So we passed hours under the jewel
blue skies poking sticks into the creek. More adventures await us this week and I can't wait until Kevin graduates on Friday. We are off to swim-although the locals are wearing sweaters.
Love to you all!

Hope you all had a wonderful Easter, the bunny left sticker books for the boys in our snowy mountain top motel. Apparently Buddy Hackett stayed there, not voluntarily his car broke down. It was so odd to have snow everywhere then drive into Williams-major Route 66 stop-where there were piles of snow but it was in the 50's. Williams is amazing it is stuck in 1954 lots of neon and very non pc store names--Woo Toms, Turquoise Tee Pee and every restaurant serves beef-big beef. And you know there is beef thanks to the massive stern looking cows on the ads all thinking," Darn it you tourist,eat here for I am beefy."
Hooper was in nirvana thanks to the 1928 diesel which wound through two hours of gorgeous country and took us to the Grand Canyon. In truth I think the train was more Hooper's taste then the Canyon which in Hoopeer's eyes was a series of adults grabbing him and making him look at a big hole then finally allowing him to get to the important task of picking up pebbles and sticks. Josh was slightly more awestruck but then was overcome at the idea of falling into the Canyon...which oddly I had been having nightmares about for months. It is amazing that parts have no fence and it is a thousand foot drop, the small signs alerting parents to watch their children didn't feel quite as safe as a small fence but I am no expert. We had only a few hours at the Canyon and Kevin and I traded kids so we could get wishful and imagine hiking and photographing the light as it changed throughout the day. We were able to get some pictures and I can't wait to come back and spend a few days exploring the Canyon.
This echoed our experience at Bell Rock in Sedona, on Saturday-we saw it but we couldn't get there because we had to look at dirt and rocks and speculate on storm run off. In the distance the rock loomeed over us-raw and red, just beautiful. We drove towards William via Sliding Rock Park, and the scenery was amazing. We spotted a water fall hundreds of feet above us, the creek was rushing and tumbling on our side and the cliffs rolled up either side shading us and making it more mysterious. Eagles and ravens wheeled above us tracing patterns in the brillant blue sky.
Last night we had two drained and grouchy little boys, and two tired adults.
We are scaling back our plans and our trip may take an extra day, or two, and we are fine with that. Kevin and I have begun to make a wish list of spots we want to come back to in the future, and we will meander across the US on more kid friendly venues. We will be heading into New Mexico today-hopefully Alburquerque, but Gallup is fine too.
Take care!

I want to apologize for my pre coffee post this morning. After sitting down for three cups of Route 66 diner coffee I realized that my post was crabby and not well written. As the coffee coursed through my system I realized how much more I had to tell you all. I am sitting in Gallup, NM our room overlooks the indoor pool so I am hearing lots of splashing from the pool and from Hooper as he and Kevin explore the tub.
What a day, I got up very early and did laundry in the 24 hour laundromat and gas station, the proprietor was a fascinating mix of Tammi Fay and a scary ranch hand. Big hair and lots of mascara seem to be part of the uniform of Williams,AZ. That and her very vivid description of various traffic axidants( her actual pronounciation). I went back and took photos of the cow spoken of earlier. He was even more stern and beefy after the coffee.
I have to heartily recommend William if you are planning a tour of the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is so difficult too describe because simple words really don't capture all the grandeur. So I'll move this along. We began the morning roughly but soon picked up our flow.
Our laundry folded and a trip to Safeway later we headed out to Route 40.
The detour for lunch today was THE METEOR CRATER the largest, the most pristine crater on OUR PLANET!!!!
WOW I have to type all that in caps to convey its ENORMITY!!
In truth it was amazing, great museum, fascinating activities for kids, awe inspiring views. And what a crater----huge and very odd. To add to the sci-fi feel there was a huge windstorm in that area of AZ. eighty mile and hour winds and rust coloured dust.
Nothing like standing on the edge of a 570 foot cliff with the wind shoving you from behind.

Very Martian with all the red dust, except for the cows-yeah those stern and beefy creatures are everywhere.
We drove for 4 hours in massive winds and swirling clouds of dust. I was thankful we had beef jerky and jelly beans-it was like an Okie living history moment.
The Petrified forest and Dinosaur Land were observed road side as were the Mesas-no Indian culture today.
The high desert is so different, very scrubby and full of tumbleweeds-nasty thorny balls of doom. Then beside the mesas-crumbling boulders falling downward to lay heaped up like piles of pebbles. You feel the desolation and the destruction of tribal boundaries-Navajo mixed into Apache forced upon Hopi shoving out Avapai.
My sense of WASP guilt rising higher and higher with each signboard advertising "real indian whatever real cheap."
I began to let go of the guilt trip as I counted the tipis, once I reached a total of three dozen. Three dozen concrete Tee Pees all painted with authentic Indian motifs towering twenty feet above the roadway for more than fifty miles. This is a form of revenge, slow stealthy revenge, these towering structures all filled with kitsch. Expensive guilt laden kitsch that will permeate our homes-having begun in our club rooms and ending up at tag sales and finally in shaby chic bars and coffee shops. We will be shopping the Pueblos tomorrow-no tipis.

Our trip had us spending the night Saturday in Phoenix and visiting the Heard Museum. Incredible-each tribe had wonderful interactive galleries with great art projects for the kids.You must go there-you must. The drive to Phoenix pushed us through Tuscon and saguarro country. What huge cacti,their arms don't appear until they are in their fifties and then as they age their bodies give over and they host a plethora of creatures. They lurk everywhere and sometimes their arms entwine as they grow. Josh loves watchiing them march over the mountains, like prickly soldiers. Hundreds and hundreds in a mile. Hooper stares out the wiindow as I prattle about the cactii and he just murmurs "ouch" very seriously.
The desert is blooming and we've had the fortune of driving along after rain-the colors overwhelm you. Orange, fuschia,marigold in such profusion. The flowers seem decadent after so much arid land. The scents are just as vibrant as the flowers, the better to attract the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. All this life so suddenly, pollen making the road hazy. Kevin about to expire due to allergies. During the day life bursting forth, at night the moans and snorting of a severly congested spouse. Thank goodness for those night time cold remedies, without them Kevin's spasmatic coughing might keep me awake. I suck down some Robatussin and wow I sleep great! I barely hear Kevin's gasps.

Seriously though in a small space we are learning things about each other that I never realized. Our family is being enriched by these close quarters. I had no idea Kevin can hear me clenching my teeth when he plays remote roulette. And wow was Kevin surprised that using tthe bathroom can be a performance art piece with a three year old.
We'll we are off to bed, hopefully tomorrow's drive will go smoothly.

Here I sit in OK, not far from the center of Oklahoma City. We spent the day driving from Aamarilo texas, and we are zonked. We stopped at the Route 66 museum in Elk City, and again at Cherokee place. Then we parked it here for the night because a storm is rolling in, and out here that can mean bad driving.
This has been a very strange journey.Yesterday we were in a New Mexican Pueblo eating fry bread and posole. Then in just a few hours we hit Texas, I have decided to smack any person I see back East for wearing cowboy gear, nothing against cowboys but I truly now believe that cowboy posers are just wrong... Last night we ate at the Big Texan-arestaurant famous for a free 72 ounce steak-if you can devour it in less than an hour. No we did not attempt this feat of gluttony. Although my Atkins diet days were definitely humming at the thought of 6 pounds of steak. There were more taxidermied heads then you would have thought possible. I mean I have always wondered where that line of too many preserved heads was-I found it.
Josh and I two-stepped while we waited for our food, even Hooper danced with me. Kevin simply was too distracted at the idea of eating a small cow. The kid's meals came with cowboy hats so now both boys whip them off and yell Yee Haw!
The thing was it all worked-the noise, the sheer size of everything, the limos pulling up festooned with horns. And my favorite was a massive plaster cow in front. My fascination with large stern beefy steers being used to entice customers is growing.
The whole Route 66 romance is wearing thin-since it is everywhere. I have stood, sat and even used official Route 66 bathrooms. The museum was a little disturbing the main street you walk through has three funeral parlors-complete with wicker coffins and embalming set ups. Hey kids look at that a cadaver draining board, Gee Dad what are all those bottles and tubes for....but since they had trains and geese Hooper was delighted. Hooper was attacked and threatened by a number of irritated waterfowl but thankfully since we all were powered up with our new staple-beef jerky- we escaped.
The boys( all three) are in the pool for a little pre-bedtime swim. Tomorrow we are striving for Little Rock,AK. Although Kevin would love for us to hit Tennessee. The reality of driving wiith small people is such a shock for him. Between the whining and the demands for snacks and the constant kicking of his seat I think he's gone off a bit. Luckily I am driving now and he has the children to deal with-hahahahaha. The Saturn once seemed comfortably roomy, now it is like a space capsule.
Take care all

many days later.....

We arrived home Sunday evening, and it has taken me two full days to be able to make time to email you all, my faithful readers.
In my last post I spoke of the space capsule the car had become, and during the drive across Arkansas, Tennesse and Virginia that simile did not diminish.
There are reasons they do not send families into space. Astronauts and cosmonauts are not related for good reasons. If the various space programs throughout the world were to train and send an average family into space-say a family like mine-the mission would fail. Why would it fail-a loving family? It would fail because if you send four related bodies in a capsule with no real escape route only an empty capsule would return.

The last few days of driving tested my marriage, my love for my children, my tolerance for Winnie the Pooh and my love of ice cream. Items previously held to be sacrosanct.

I'll spare you the agony of bit by bit description and roll it into a essay this is actual snippets of our lives, no names have been changed. These real thoughts, words and deeds took place over three long days.

The journey begins with happy, well groomed people who adore each other. We are all well rested and ready to make the drive a pleasant adventure.
In this portion we are the Cleaver family.
We sing songs, cheerful happy songs designed to melt away the miles. The children munch on carrots and raisins. Kevin and I are both sipping green tea with lemon. Oh happy days as the hills of Arkansas beckon. The long black cuts into the hillsides look verdant and peaceful to our desert tired eyes. No dust here, gentle rain falls onto lush green fields.
The rain has refused to let up, our smiles strain slightly. Some small foot has begun to beat a tatoo on the rear of my seat-oddly able to hit my lumbar spine with each kick. The children's adorable singing has faded to be replaced with a drone of" I wanna play,PWaydrown?Are we there yet?"
Daddy is our white knight having stopped at no less then three McD's without play places he has gotten easy fast directions to a nearby outdoors play ground-just as the sun is breaking through. Perfect we'll see some of Arkansas and the children will play!
Miles and miles roll by-we cross train tracks,a bridge,acres of those darn fields, we roll past a home of an obviously disturbed Arkansas native. The questions begin-Why does that man have tin foil on his windows, Why does he have 30 schoolbuses in his yard? What is that pig doing? Is that an outhouse?
These and others go unanswered as Kevin and I scan the distance and speak in those odd strained voices only actors and parents use-you said it was close, I thought there'd be signs, where are we?
As the sun begins it's final arc thorough the cloud dotted sky we find a park. Not the promised playground but a camping area. But Hey Folks there is a little playground and a river and a bathroom. The kids play happily as we look around at all the older males in fishing gear eyein us up. The area is dotted with bass boats and pop up trailers. Smoke rises from the cigarettes of these fisher folk. The playground is a small oasis and we stay put.

The next day finds us well beyond Little Rock and heading into Tennessee. The gentle rain from the day before has evolved into a rushing storm. Fields are ponds, ponds are lakes and the car is small. The dvd player we bought as a treat has become a life line. Route 40 no longers beckons happily-it is a road awash. Tempers flare but the magic of the dvd calms the angry beasts, I mean the kids. It is apparent that the irritated eye Kevin had back in New Mexico was not just as a result of his sinuses. Hooper's eyes are crusty, his nose is leaking, Josh is utterly repulsed by his mucus.We are no longer the Cleavers. We resemble Roseanne Barr's tv family now. Hooper through the course of this day will alternately whine then be hyper thanks to the miracle of decongestants. The rain intensifies into a down pour. Kevin and I have not slept well. Some of the fine food we've been eating was contaminated with something and we are rumbling and irritable. The rain forces our ship away from Graceland. My moping about this makes the car ride even more pleasant. Kevin drives like it is a military crusade. I curl into my seat as the signs for Elvis fade into the miles. It is impossible to sulk in a Saturn. Kevin refues to apologize and actually uses the word mission when he explains to me that Graceland was not part of our vision for the day. My mumbled "yessir" and salute do not endear me to his heart.
My mission, now that Graceland has been snatched, is to overthrow the leader. I accomplish this coup by waiting for a rest stop. I care not if my bladder fails, I have the drivers seat. I am bound and determined to see the Grand Ole Opry. Hours pass, accidents pile the roadways. The rain is making Tennesse look like a neolithic water park. Waterfalls cascade down the sides of the mountains that line the road. The truckstop where we had lunch is dingy, lunch is no epicuren delight. The little one is fitfully asleep and Josh has the Incredibles DVD in-the score for this movie is very dramatic and is echoing through the car as I white knuckle my way through traffic.
This drive has become unbearable. Half the car is awake and irritated,half the car wants snacks. I throw cereal bars to the hungry ones. I speak without moving my lips-they are clenched too tightly.
We spend a night at the Super 8-located convienantly close to the airport. Planes take off from this airport every 17 minutes. Large planes, jets, small planes, crop dusters, troop transports-all right outside the window. Convienant in Tennessee means we can see the pilot's eyeballs.
The Grand Ole Opry is far away. We will not see it. I no longer care. The mission has failed.

Saturday dawns cold and grey. We are grim and determined. We will only drive a few hours today. Tonight will find us relaxing in a hot tub. We will stop and see some of Tennesse. Hooper is still discharging, and now so am I. We set out from Shoneys like combat vets. The car looms and we sit again in our assigned seats. Hooper still chats "Pwane" as he did most of the night every time he sees one. Luckily for us the snow and ice soon obscure these sky signs. The Smoky Mountains are having a snow storm. We are in it. No matter how much we wish we were not, and no matter how close we are to DollyWood, we are fufilling our duty.
The roads wind up through dense woods, up,up into cutaways. The smoke
rising from distant chimneys, the smoke rising from every last person we see. Cigarettes are apparently essential. A playland in a fast food joint is a regrouping point. The car is now a foxhole dug in a combat zone-we are a squad now.
Then Kevin's belly fails us.
Every 35-42 miles we stop.
Josh informs me near the VA border that Daddy is expelling fire-or demons and that he will not enter another bathroom with him. Hooper and Josh no longer enjoy the DVD player. Josh and Hooper no longer enjoy our snacks. No one enjoys the car. We aren't even sure we like each other any more. I hurl bags of jelly beans into the back seat. Kevin and I argue about who should drive. We argue about arguing in front of the children. We argue about the children arguing. The children pester, fuss and begin to turn on each other, Hooper delights in pinching Josh. Josh takes away toys. Hooper pinches. Josh takes. Hooper pinches. Mommy loses it. Daddy joins Mommy-we have done it we have a common enemy again. Our squabbles fade off and we turn together to join forces against this evil. We have left the Cleavers far behind this is like what the Donner Pass must have been-or maybe Lord of the Flies since the Donners ate each other and with Kevin's stomach acting up I don't think that will happen. Yet.

We pull the car over-we PULL the car over.

The children grow quiet, they sense our unity. They resume playing quietly amusing themselves. I hand sticker books out. The carrots are munched. Calm is restored.

We pull into our planned but not booked destination-more than an hour beyond Bristol and all that wacky Nascar signs. Pool and hot tub await,supper in a real restaurant-yahoooooo!
Problems-the race is the season opener. All the hotels are booked. I mean all the hotels, as in within a 3 hour radius. Nice hotels, cheap hotels, hotels that are trailers----all full.
We eat and set out on what will prove to be the most awful drive of our lives.
The sun is setting the snow is thickening,we are exhausted.Kevin won't yield the driver's seat to me. He's got foxhole mentality now and he wants his troops home.He is drinking Pepto like it's soda. Many hours later we find a hotel-very near Luray Caverns( our Sunday treat) that has no pool, no hot tub and an Eighties cover band going full tilt in the lounge.
We are all in such a state that this hotel seems reasonable, nice even.
The children sleep like angels.Kevin and I sleep like zombies.
We awake again as the Cleavers-ok not the Cleavers, but ourselves. We are out of clean clothes. We don't care.
Josh and Kevin love Luray. Hooper is too small for the caverns but finds the storm drains and heating vents amazing. The drive home is over the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I am so happy to see signs for Baltimore I almost cry.
Our street looks fabulous, our yard looks lush. The playground is Hooper's main goal. Hooper is astounded to be home, he touches everything again and again. Josh is whooping and the dog leaps with joy. Our lovely neighbor has a delicious meal ready for us. Even the cat seemed to miss us. The house has been well taken care of by our cousin Kate. I am so happy to be home.
Hooper sets up a train layout that covers his entire floor and plays for hours. He is still amazed we came home. He keeps asking if we'll tay? We home? We pway?
Josh spends this time in his room, locked away in his sanctuary. He is so relaxed building with his legos.
We all sleep beautifully.
We are home.
Much love to you all-we have 7 more loads of wash to do, hope to see you soon!

© Copyright 2006 lizsmith (kelticthree at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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