Sunday, March 28, 2010

Days 5-6: The wonders of a good night sleep.

Yup, you're reading that map right. Over 2100 km.

For a bit of a change, we decided to spend the night at the Nauvoo Log Cabins. I highly recommend the experience. Everyone had their own bed last night, and for that I will always be grateful. I don't know if I have ever had a sleep so delicious.
What struck me as we visited Nauvoo was the sense of permanence--the location on the banks of the Mississippi, the carefully laid out streets, and the thick buildings of brick. It was a place that was, nearly for all, intended as the final destination of a long journey and not merely a waypoint. Many of the houses were built with the intention of lasting not only years, but generations. But despite having been led to such a beautiful and prosperous place, despite planting roots deep into the ground, despite, they were called to walk away once again from all that they had made and experienced after only a few short years.
There was too much to see and do in the day we spent there, but with a little guidance, I really feel like we made the most of it. In the Family Living Centre the kids learned to make rope, and barrels and rugs and ash bread.

In the blacksmith shop they gained a greater appreciation for the work that went in to forging a horseshoe, and in the brickyard they learned what it took to make a brick. We also visited the Browning home and saw some really cool guns. We ended the day with a cart ride around the town and then made our way to Carthage before striking west.

Carthage was the only place on our journey where I didn't take photos. It didn't feel right treating it as a site to see or a place to check off on an itinerary. It was there I began to get a greater sense of the pilgrimage aspects of our trip and how pilgrimages, whether they be literal or figurative can, if made with the right intent, have the power to refine and lift and change one for the better. There is value to what we are doing and I can't help but feel its impact on me.
OUr intention had been to drive a few hours, find a hotel for the night, put in a long drive the next day, find another hotel and then make our way to Idaho sometime around the middle of Sunday. However, a little intoxicated on the quality of the night's sleep, we decided to press on as long and as far as we could. It turned out we could go pretty far. With a couple of power naps at rest stops in Nebraska, we were able to push through all the way to Idaho. We arrived at Julie's sister's Saturday night. There's not much to report on from our journey other than the crazy spots of snow and wind in Wyoming (we saw almost a half-dozen accidents over a relatively short stretch of highway).
Our car after the mountain pass through Wyoming. Where did spring go?

And, against the advice of the GPS, we took a slight detour to come up to Idaho by way of Star Valley. It was breathtaking and worth whatever time we might have lost. I had forgotten how much I missed the mountains.
I also learned the perils of being a primarily one handed driver over extremely long stretches. I pretty much lost all movement in my right shoulder from holding it in place for so long. "Drive with two hands. Keep them at Ten and two." That's what my driver instructor had taught me, and now I know the reason why.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day 3 -- The Places Left Behind

Liam got a new toy.

I am not falling behind. I am not falling behind.

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I could drive longer. I really could. However, there are little nagging details that keep cropping up like, “You do realize that the kids need to eat more than granola bars and string cheese.” I’m tempted to point out that most of the body’s nutritional needs can, in fact, be met by the combination of Nature Valley Sweet and Salty granola bars and Black Diamond string cheese, but I hold my tongue.

After a little delay that was quickly rectified by AAA (note to self: do not park on an incline when the tank is running low), we hit the road. Destination: Kirtland. At a good friend’s suggestion, we decided on visiting the temple first. It was an informative tour and I think valuable to spend time inside the temple to get a sense of history. It really was an amazing accomplishment and I think I have a better understanding of why it was so difficult for some of the early saints to walk away from all that they had made and experienced in that place.

Historic Kirtland was our next stop. We had two great Sister Missionaries as tour guides who did a fantastic job of drawing the kids into the story of that town. There was a great spirit there, and I was struck by some of the sacrifices made by early members of the church and the readiness with which it was done. The weather was perfect and the time walking (or in James’ case running) around the town was both spiritually and physically refreshing.

After Kirtland, we had an immensely unsatisfying dinner experience at Costco, a place considerably less tempting on a road trip. The advantages of buying in bulk are considerably diminished by space constraints. It was hard to resist the palate of 36 bottles of water for $3.45. It was even harder to find places to cram those bottles.

To keep driving a little longer, we put on our first movie of the trip (Thanks dad for the DVD player loan). I love that one of my kids’ favorite movies of last year was The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Witty dialogue in the background makes the driving so much more bearable.

Day 2—Oh How Wet and Cold and Windy was the Afternoon

I have to keep reminding myself that the advantage of the road trip is that nothing’s set in stone. Sure, we do have to be in Salt Lake for conference weekend, but if we fall behind a few hours here or there, it’s not going to make that much of a difference. We really don’t have anywhere we need to be.

I asked the waitress last night, “Where am I?”

She said, “You mean the restaurant?”

“No,” I replied. “This place? Where is the restaurant located?

She paused, which I didn’t take as a good sign, and finally said, “I guess some people would say you’re in Williamsville.”

I didn’t ask what other people would call the place. As we drive across the country, so many of the places we pass through feel like in-between spots. Obviously, they’re homes and destinations for some, I just don’t know who those people are.

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There’s a stark beauty to the early spring. Without the leaves, you get a greater sense of the land and its shape. So often, we see images of the Sacred Grove filled with trees laden with greenery, but I think we may have gotten a better sense of what things really looked like that morning Jospeh Smith went out to pray that early spring morning. It was cold and wet and rainy as walked through the Joseph Smith farm, but Liam said as we were leaving the Hill Cummorah, “It’s a real place now.” That’s why we travel—to make the world more real, to make the people who lived before us more tangible.

We’ve been to two Target stores in two days now. It’s hard to describe how eerily comforting that store can be after five years of Zeller’s and Wal-Mart. The spacious aisles, the stocked shelves, and the pleasant demeanor of the employees, it feels like coming home. Today, Julie bought a canvas bag with the store’s logo stitched on it. It may just be the only souvenir she buys on this trip.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

We're on our way

Who says all those hours of Tetris were a waste of time?
Well we slept in this morning and didn't get on the road until almost 6:30 (it wasn't my fault, really!). It was a marathon haul, but after over thirteen hours in the car we made it past Boston and ended up in some place called Sturbridge. You'll notice that it's 1200 km in one day. This was due in part to my incredible stamina as a driver, but we couldn't have made it so far if Julie had not done such an amazing job prepping food and snacks. Not a bad first leg of the tour.

Side note. The advantage to having James still in diaper means that we can hold off on stopping as long as the other kids' bladders hold out. However, cleaning those diapers on the go tends to eat up the time we've saved.

Shouldn't these guys be too tired out for this stuff?