Hot Child in the Desert

After leaving Flagstaff two days ago we are now in Indio, just outside Palm Springs. I’m happy to report that the drive into Phoenix restored my faith in Arizona’s reported beauty. While the drive into Flagstaff underwhelmed, the drive out was majestic. Red rocks combined with pine then rich desert with fiery hues escorted us as we cruised down Flagstaff’s high plateau. We hugged bends of terraced rock and saw the famed cliffs of Sedona as we continued to drop south.

Drawing closer to Phoenix the saguaro cacti appeared. These are not the ground clinging cacti of Colorado, but the great white of cacti; the 12-foot tall species with human like appendages. Each plant stood alone in solitude and had a history to rival the great redwoods. At the end of each arm and on the top of the head small bouquets of white flowers bloomed like cherished Sunday hats. I became enthralled and because these cacti take nearly 75 years to grow a single arm, I drove through Arizona constantly mesmerized and thinking, “Man, that’s an old cactus”.

Blooming saguaro cactus

With a quick overnight in Buckeye, Arizona we crossed the border into California before stopping here in Indio. Alex and I had a bad parental moment today as Elias showed signs of a developing fever. We took our mountain child and put him in a hot desert and he melted, literally. We decided to push for the long drive today and the plan backfired. The last 70-miles of our drive through the lifeless desert with an overheated toddler in the backseat was none too pleasant to say the least.

Thank goodness for an evening breeze. Elias is currently asleep with the windows open and his body has cooled down. I am grateful for his peaceful sleep and finally getting into California.

Flying a kite in Buckeye, AZ
Happy to be out of the car

The Life of a Sponge

Before leaving Buena Vista I believed that a child under two would be content visiting one of just a few places each day. Being too young for most programs, we had limited places to play. Days were a bit redundant for me, but I never imagined that my little one would feel the same way.

Now that we have been on the road for nearly three weeks I have begun to think otherwise. With a new adventure every day I see the steady excitement in Elias. With this comes a happier child as well as a better behaved little boy. While a very pleasant surprise to me, I wonder if our more relaxed gypsy-lifestyle has reflected positively on Eli or maybe it’s just that he’s growing up.

It appears that Buena Vista’s wind has caught up with us. While not blazing through a mountain valley, Flagstaff’s gusts could serve some fierce competition. The blustery wind gave us a good excuse to stay indoors and visit The Flagstaff Aquaplex, a new recreation facility centered around a dragon-themed, imaginative indoor pool with water slides and a lazy river built out of faux rock formations. In Colorado we were spoiled by an over abundance of natural hot springs. Here we were wimps. The Aquaplex water was cold. Regardless, Elias loved it and Xavey, who swam for the first time, thought less of it.

After swimming we went to the gymnasium where Alex played basketball and Elias marveled observers with his boundless energy. The floor had a multitude of lines in various colors. A curved black line for a three-point shot, red lines marking out of bounds, and white lines for volleyball serves. Elias focused on a color, put his head down and ran along a line as fast as he could. He would curve around the whole gym, run in circles, or follow the entire length of the court from one end to the next. Unaware of the balls around him, he sped fearlessly around the court; his little feet kicking out in front of him like TV’s roadrunner.

The Pioneer Museum is a small museum located in the historic Coconino County Hospital for the Indigent. We didn’t see much of the museum, but spent most of our time in the children’s hands-on exhibit – a small replica of a school room circa 1900. With shelves full of wooden toys and a play kitchen, why would we need to go anywhere else? Elias took a special liking to a tin tea pot which he wanted to carry throughout the museum. Needless to say, he was not happy to leave it behind. Outside of the museum there is an old steam engine which Elias was very scared of and a cabin full of turn-of-the-century goodies. Everything in the cabin was open to explore and I was very proud that Elias successfully looked with his eyes and not with his hands.

These two trips made me realize how eager and able little minds are to absorb. Thinking about everything that Elias experiences for the first time in just a few days can be overwhelming. How incredible it must be to have your mental wheels turning at such a rate!

Playing in a pioneer schoolroom
Investigating a covered wagon
Falling asleep beneath the curtain

David and Goliath

The RV lifestyle has surprised me. While I imagined an older population I did not expect such luxury and permanence.

Our 26-foot travel trailer is a little child compared to the colossal RVs we call neighbors. These giant vehicles have side mirrors that intimidate and several slideouts that make the vehicle appear to be of the transformer race. With full size living rooms complete with la-z-boy recliners these vehicles take living on the road to a whole new level.

You can tell those that prefer the nomadic lifestyle. They’re the ones with lawn art and large rugs outside their RV and little dogs perched in the windshield. Sometimes a portable fence surrounds the outside of the RV and a small grill sits next to a makeshift outdoor kitchen.

Our neighbor in Flagstaff lives in her 5th wheel trailer half the year when her home in Phoenix gets too hot. She has gone so far as to take the wheels off her trailer.

“Oh, it doesn’t move anywhere,” she says. “I barely drive my car on the road.”

It’s really an amusing sight to see RV after RV lining this park and then our little trailer squeezed in between like a tiny mouse.
Someone asked me yesterday, “How are you all holding up in that little trailer of yours?”

“It’s a little tight,” I replied. “But it’s working just fine for us.”

Pancakes

After yesterday’s misfortune, I chose to start today on the right foot with Pancake Friday. While pregnant with Xavier I had an overwhelming craving for pancakes. To keep this yearning under control I vowed to only make them on Fridays, hence the start of Pancake Fridays. I know we are running smooth now that I can add this tradition to my new morning routine.

Pancakes eaten and kitchen cleaned, the boys and I went to Thorpe Park, which sits on the western edge of town, where the wooded hills start to rise. While Elias climbed about he was either completely enamored of the older children or prepared to push away any younger child that wanted to play. Oh, what to do about this?!

I watched a mommy-pow wow grow larger as more little ones ran about. While parental struggles were describe and advice given, I realized that on the road I won’t have precious feedback, comforting shoulders, or the parenting wisdom that is absorbed when moms get together. What a blessing a parenting circle is and how sorely ours will be missed.

Thorpe Park, Flagstaff

This afternoon Alex gave me a treat and sent me on my first mountain bike ride since leaving Colorado. Flagstaff’s vibrancy is fueled by bike trails. Veins of dirt and sand, these trails connect the whole city to the mountains above. I only rode 100 feet from our campground before turning onto a trail to start a ride that made me feel strong and confident. How I wished I could have stayed out longer, but babies call and I turned back home much too early.

I’d love to note that while J & H RV Park in Flagstaff is clean and wonderfully managed, it is crawling with cheesy sayings, or rather polite reminders. Here are some examples…

(On the dumpster) “Satisfaction guaranteed or double your garbage back.”

“If God had intended for people to speed through RV parks, he wouldn’t have made older folks who can’t get out of the way fast enough.”

“All children (and some childish adults) must be accompanied by a parent.”

The best sign at J & H RV Park

R.I.P. Nikon

The Arboretum at Flagstaff ate my camera.

I took Elias and Xavier to the arboretum this morning. The day was like a 1960s Disney film with blue skies and singing birds. Elias was ready to explore the wooded paths and Xavier was asleep on my chest.

As Elias threw stones into a small brook my camera fell out of its case, hit the ground and landed in the water. I grabbed it quickly, but to no avail. My camera is now dead.

There is a chance that it will work again, but I am too devastated to write much more. For now, my posts will be void of images.

R.I.P. Nikon Coolpix.

Last pic before dropping camera in brook

Desert Oasis

It’s a stretch to say that grasses grow along US 40 from New Mexico to Arizona.  Sand and dust contrast industry as the Santa Fe Railroad moves hundreds of containers along old highway 66.  Excitement surrounds a travel center, an oasis of economy. We move like this for 380-miles until the peak of Mt. Humphrey rises in the horizon.

The mountain stands alone in the desert, marking the prosperous university town. It is overcast as we draw near and between bursts of spring rain we see a long formation of clouds moving magnetically toward the peak. This geographic layout helps heighten our excitement as we drive closer and the mountain grows larger.

Small ponderosa trees appear and as we climb in altitude they get taller and more frequent. It reminds me of Flagstaff Road in Boulder, dry ground with flourishing pine. The highway gets busier and street lamps begin.

We turn off our exit and arrive at J & H, a clean, senior-focused RV park. We are in wonderful spirits, ready to start our week-long adventure in Flagstaff.