The Road Trip to Pittsburgh: Part One

Once Tate had decided on an east coast college I was thrilled, it meant we could take a road trip.  I LOVE road trips.  Driving is meditative – and peaceful.  Even in the midst of arguing children and pouring rain, I still find the road soothing.  Hours and days of driving, yay!

Our little journey was kick started with a lovely breakfast with friends and family.  We met at “our” little diner in Glendale, Foxy’s.   Tate and I have been going there since she was little – so it was fitting that we made it the location for her big send off.   Tate’s friends, her other “brother” Mikee and her aunt and uncle joined us for breakfast.  It was wonderful to see the girls smiling and giggling over girl things.  A much needed series of smiles after the previous week’s challenges!


After breakfast Mikee walked over to the car with me and helped squeeze everything into and atop the car.  I was certain we would never get everything in the car.  There was just too much stuff; we were lugging along a large duffle bag of camping equipment for our first two nights, a few boxes of things for my mom to store and ship to me later along my trip, my things and then a dorm full of stuff for Tate.  We used every inch of space the little SUV had to offer.  Shoving things under the seat, in the space between the window and other boxes.  Including a filled cargo carrier on the top.   It took a few minutes of pulling and pushing but we managed to get it snug on the top of the car and zipped up ready to roll.

It also took a little nudge to get Tate in the car.  Saying goodbye to her friends and “big brother” Mikee was not easy.   Watery eyes, we were in the car on the road.

We missed our first night of camping – by an hour.   We didn’t arrive at the campgrounds in time to check-in, so we backtracked a couple miles and found a little hotel.   The first leg of driving had been prolonged by an hour and half nap at a rest stop.  We had unfortunately stayed up all night the night before, packing and cleaning. Well not all night we went to bed at 5:30 am and got up for breakfast at 7:45 am.  Needless to say we were not well rested to start a full day of driving.   Heavy eyes forced us to pull off the road several times and finally I gave in and took a little snooze.  We missed the first night of camping, but we arrived safely!

The cool beds and warm showers were a welcome change to our previously planned air mattress and no-shower.  We took full advantage of the room we paid for and slept in, then drove the short couple of miles over to the camp ground.   It was beautiful.   We talked of going to step in the lake, but we never made it.   We set up camp; popped up the tent and inflated the mattress, in a few minutes we were all done.

04 The tent

Now that we were set for the evening, we hurled ourselves back into the car and drove off to see the Zion National Park.   The terrain was much different on our drive into the park.  In contrast to the dry, barren desert we had been driving through, we started to see large pine trees and green fields.   It was an eventful drive and we began to make plans for stops on our way back.  We saw a small herd of goats, a fruit stand, a place selling a variety of jerky, ostriches, and a small fabricated village.   Yes, all these intrigued us.

As we entered the park area massive mountains of red rock surrounded us.  In the way that the Grand Canyon is massive as you look into the abyss of the vast canyon.   The mountainous rock of Zion is an incredible vision.  It makes you feel small at the same time you feel honored to be in the presence of such beauty.

We stopped at the Welcome Center to walk about and purchase some gifts for family and friends.  We then drove peacefully through the park trying to take it all in – and stay safely on the road.  We climbed the rock and were able to see the rocks from all angles.  At one point we were able to drive through the 1.1-mile tunnel through the rock.  I would have loved to have walked through the tunnel.  There were 4 or 5 cut-out windows in the tunnel allowing you a millisecond glance at the view, that I would have loved to see.  I could have spent days here, wandering about and enjoying the beauty of it all.  But we just had the day – and we made the most of it.

On our return we managed to find the fruit stand again and buy some produce.  It was a quaint little stand – operating on the honor system.  We picked up two large peaches and an onion to add to our pasta dinner later that night.

We made a brief stop to see a small herd of sheep and then we located the jerky place.  This was one of those places you find on road trips.  It is a souvenir shop, restaurant and antique store, an odd collection of dusty items, in a cool dark store.  We wondered through the shop and browsed the antiques.  Mostly the kind of thing you would expect.    Near the back of the store I happened upon some original art pieces…I fell in love with a piece – a colorful buffalo.  I would love to have purchased it and put it in my own little gallery….someday 🙂


After a few minutes of leisurely browsing we worked our way back to the front of the store and made our selection of jerky (to send off to Drew in Afghanistan) and a few little novelty items.    As we approached the checkout area, a man sleeping on the booth bench across the store stirred and noticed us.  It took a few minutes for him to gain his awareness – and for me to realize that he was supposed to be holding down the fort.  We had been in the store for nearly 20-minutes…unnoticed by the napping man.  I think we were both a little ajar by this realization.    I suppose I’ve watched too many episodes of Criminal Minds….this scene was too…something.  We paid for our selections and made our way to the exit, relieved, for no apparent reason, to get in the car.  It was just odd.

Our next stop was the little fabricated village across the way.  I’m not sure what the purpose was of the place…but it was cute.  To take pictures in the village, you had to pay two dollars for the petting zoo behind it.  No need to twist our arm.  Tate and I both enjoy animals of all kinds.  We went in and paid our fee and bought a couple of carrots to feed to the lonely creatures.  The man behind the counter told us of the little white lama with attitude.  Apparently he wasn’t too friendly, and we were encouraged to stay away from him.  We managed to feed the carrots to the donkey and horses. The little white lama stalked us the whole time.  I was certain he was going to spit on me.   When I peered into the little shelter where an albino deer napped, I felt a little guilty paying money to encourage keeping these animals in such small confinements throughout the day.   It was clear the horses and the donkey welcomed the attention, but the pathetic little deer and the angry lama made me aware of our exploitation of the animals.  We gave them some love and then made our way over the little fabricated village.  Our initial objective.

It was exactly as it looked from the road.  A series of small fabricated buildings with funny signs.    I tried, but couldn’t get Tate to stand inside for a photo.  Probably for the best. 🙂

We stepped back inside the little store where we started.  Tate and I were talking and joking in our normal pretend southern accents, something we do poorly, but always fall into when we are teasing one another.  This compelled the man behind the counter to ask us where we were from….when we said “California” he was pretty surprised.   He then followed us around the store, making me uncomfortable and made note that we were “the whitest people from California” he had ever seen.   Wait, what?  Were we supposed to be tan because we lived in California or were we not ethnic enough?  No one tans any more…really.   Like smoking –everyone knows how bad it is for your skin.  We left, with the man watching bewildered as we crossed the parking lot.  More oddness.

05 Bon Fire

Back at camp we snacked and cut up our prize peach.  I cooked up some pasta with veggies and our newly purchased onion.    We marveled how healthy we were eating…as there had been a number of fast food stops on the way.  As the sun began to set, we built a little fire and even though it was still nearly seventy-five degrees, we roasted marshmallows and made a s’more or two.  It’s not camping without s’mores!

Eventually the exhaustion set in and we tucked ourselves into our little tent.  All snug for a hot and sweaty night.

The sun woke me up early and the view from our tent was a pleasant greeting.


Today we were hitting the road, so we made a little breakfast and loaded up the car before the sun brought too much heat.  Off to Denver we were!

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