After we left Lost Valley we headed down the Oregon Coast the Scenic way and let our jaws drop a bit at the scenery that would tease us from the other side of the pines. The sky would drop jigsaw puzzle shapes of sunlight on our car as we weaved through the trees along the cliff side. We would hear the ocean and smell the ocean and strain our eyes at the distance waiting for a flash of waves. It wasn’t the wisest technique for the driver and not the best equation: steep drop offs into the ocean with no guard rails plus breathtaking views you have to stretch a bit sideways to see. Needless to say we survived our own wanderlust and made it to San Fransisco.
One of our stays along the coast was at Nehelam bay. It was clear and cold when we got there, but before we had our tent up it started to rain again. We stayed two nights and rained like clockwork each of them. The first night we went out to the ocean in our rain gear and walked along it’s long and extremely flat beach. Because of the flatness the ocean rolled onto the shore for what seemed like an exaggerated length. In the darkness it looked like the end of the world. This black mirror stretching as far as the eye can see in every direction was completely surreal. If we looked closely, though, we could see the violent breaking of waves, like a ruffled line of dim white light, out in the distance.
We came back the next day and I convinced Benjamin to take off his shoes and brave the painfully cold water.
“It hurts!” he said in shock as he ran from the touch of the water.
“I didn’t say it would be pleasant, I just said it’d be invigorating.” I told him. I guess he was expecting something else, big surprise. He stayed back along the “safe” part of the beach and enjoyed the sand and it’s natural-creamy-peanut-butter-like texture it has when saturated. I stayed close to the line of scrimmage and made designs like writing in the sand with my feet and watched them wash away, giving in to the temperate nature of life.
Our stay in San Fransisco was by far the most luxurious experience we’ve had so far. We stayed with Benjamin’s cousins Domani and John (siblings not partners… I’m sure they appreciate the distinction). They actually live in Tracy, CA, outside of San Fransisco. Our trend with the rain proceeded us and though Tracy has been described as nearly always sunny and temperate, it was raining when we arrived and raining when we left. I’m sure there will be jokes about how ‘April Rains brought the rain,’ I’m used to it by now.
We woke up Saturday morning to Domani making breakfast for us: breakfast burritos with all the fixings, made with ingredients fresh from the store, delivered from John by motorcycle (very cool). We spent the day lazying about (which was fabulous after the long camping regiment and driving to get there). That night they took us out to Indian food and a tour of San Fransisco that just kind of happened in the process of finding the world’s curviest road, which we did eventually find (go team!).
Despite discussing the possible tourist activities for the next day, we spent Sunday laying around as well. It felt like it was 5pm before we’d digested breakfast (another gourmet delight made by Domani: Berry pancakes and grits). That night they took us out again, this time to a fine restaurant where I had the best pork loin ever.
On our way to LA we hit a huge storm. Very displeased was I, the girl who freaks out driving in even a light rain, to drive in high winds and rain so thick I could barely see at times and when I could see, the sky blended with the road. There was no space between this storm cloud and us. With much relief we made it to Elleanor and Tipton’s house in LA.
Our LA schedule was packed. We jumped around staying with different people almost every night. I got to spend some quality girl time with Ellie. Benjamin got to spend some quality boy time with Shawna. We walked along Huntington Beach with Laura. My old buddy, Gentry, gave us a fabulous tour of all things fabulous in LA, including a store I am now in love with called Necromance where they sell random old interesting stuff often having to do with mortality. Where else can you think of to go to buy 1940’s anatomy diagrams, snake vertebrae, leaves and flowers pressed and identified in 1967 from LA county, and books about the evolution of death rituals in America over the last two centuries? It was hard to leave. We saw an amazing play I highly recommend called, “Man from Nebraska” that Benjamin’s friend, Jeff, ran the lighting. And last but not least I got to reminisce with Tipton and Ellie about the good ol’ canvass days of yore. This may still be something I venture back into.
We left LA and headed along my old childhood trail towards Arizona. When I was around seven we lived in Cathedral City (suburb of Palm Springs) but our congregation was in Ranch Cucamunga. Every Sunday we’d take our our pilgrimage to church through the desert. This became a family event I would look forward to every week. I’d sleep in the back sandwiched between baby blankets until we reached points of excitement. We’d sometimes stop at one the following stops: Cabazon, where the huge dinosaurs are (we’d eat at the cafe and Mom would almost always eat a strawberry Belgium waffle), the produce store in the middle of nowhere to eat a (fresh, local, awesome) date shake, or AMPM to eat a $.99 cheeseburger (another one of Mom’s cravings).
We made this journey and stopped for a Belgium waffle in Cabazon and had our tourist moment with the dinosaurs. It wasn’t the same without Mom… that’s what made it what it is in my memory.
When we got to Cathedral City, we (after some effort) found the house I used to live in. It looked totally different. The outside stucco walls had been covered in stone and the oleanders had been replaced too. My beloved olive tree still stood at the side of the house and all the palm trees had grown from 4-10 feet high to about 30 feet high (or more?). I built up the courage and rang the door bell. After an awkward introduction she lit up with excitement.
“Oh, my god! You grew up here! Oh, please come in!” Mrs. R______ gave me a grand tour of every room, it’s past, present and future. She was and artist and a hair stylist and her husband was a contractor. Given this duo, the house was significantly different. There were hand painted murals, retextured and recolored floors and walls. Bathrooms had been rebuilt and there were plans to totally redo the master suite (bathroom, and closet included). My bedroom had been remade into a hair salon (very surreal). We took pictures of most of the changes. The curious thing was how most of the house felt like it would if I had redone it (especially the kitchen), nothing at all the way Mom had it or would have it in the future. Everything was shades of gold and brown. There was leather and feathers. Things felt like things from Africa, the middle east and some nameless down-home ranch, blend well and let ferment. Mom would have described it as cluttered, I call it an expression of life, and lived in. Mrs. R_____ was incredibly kind and remembered the Armstrongs (Mom’s name). They were the same people who bought it from us some ten or more years ago. She took my name and said she’s email pictures of the house when construction was done, “… for your Mom” she said many times. She seemed so tickled there was another woman out there who had loved this house as much as she did. She was also proud, I think, at how much love and work she had put into it. It was obvious she was grateful and really wanted Mom to know that the house would always be cared for.
We made it to Tucson the night of April 3, the night before my best friend Tami’s birthday. Tami had just moved back to Tucson from Nashville, TN, so she’s staying in her Dad’s camper in his backyard. His place was an hour outside of Tucson, She was staying there until she’s saved up enough to get her own place in town. We had stayed with her for about three days, celebrating her birthday and catching up, when it just got too crowded. Some diplomacy was needed to balance Don’s family, Tami and two guests, but it wasn’t our place so we went to Tucson to re-discover my hometown and couch surf until it was time to go.
Tucson turned out to be more emotional that I was ready for. Asking friends if we could stay with them bothered me, as most my friend’s in Tucson are not in a situation to take house guests at all (too many roommates, living with parents, ect). Our trip, due to it’s nature, meant that Benjamin and I had to be around each other constantly. This had put a serious strain on our relationship. We had two serious, and emotionally charged, discussions that was exhausting. We really are due a little vacation from each other and some intimant alone time. On top of everything else my Dad called me to tell me my Uncle Terry had died and my Aunt Rita was devastated. All I wanted to do was go home and be with family. I didn’t want to be in this hot, dirt town, eating cheap Mexican food and being a burden on my friends. I was emotionally shot. It was unrealistic to get to Arkansas in time for the funeral so we decided to continue on the trip as planned. I’m just glad I’ll be there soon enough. I miss my Aunt Rita. I miss my lake.
The night we saw Glympse play at club crawl downtown had been just like my adolescence. Their music is still enchanting, still unique. I had a chance to reminisce with Omar that night of the old days in his photo album. We didn’t get to sleep till 4:20am.
The next night we stayed at Todd’s house. In classic Todd fashion we stayed up late discussing probing topics that challenge and entice, drinking Tecate until Benjamin was dizzy and Todd would stumble into the wall as he got up to get another. We slept in a bit then had strong coffee with chicken and tortillas over the news paper and discussions of religion and judgment. I appreciate his questions and how he makes me really think about my answers but he still hits my buttons relentlessly.
With some effort I managed to spend some time with Adrian. I’ve missed him so much. Part of me felt like such a short visit just made me miss him more, reminded me of why I liked talking to him. Even still time with him was emotionally quenching. I did get to see his daughter, Katherine Joe, whose about a year old. It was completely surreal. She was tiny, parts of Adrian and of Mary Joe blooming on her face. She was so beautiful. Mary Joe encouraged me to pick her up, I was kinda scared to touch her, but I held her a while. She examined my necklace carefully and stared at Benjamin, laughing occasionally. I think it’s the beard, kids can’t resist him.
We spent our last night as a delicate rumor in Tami’s camper (at least tried to), not to be seen or heard, trying not to stir up anymore tension around Tami’s situation there. With relief we left the next day.
We drove into Flagstaff late that next night and drank in the cold air. I relished in the action of retrieving my favorite sweater. Pamela, one of Benjamin’s high school buddies, met us at the door and we caught up in the foyer by the door. We were already talking too rapidly to get out of the foyer and into the light. We stayed up late talking in the kitchen over the counter top. Both days spent in Flagstaff, Benjamin and I hurriedly rushed to get caught up on all the stuff that piles up as we travel (laundry, postcards, mending, writing, ect), while Pamela was at school. We still didn’t get everything done, but we were close. Pamela took us out to Indian food that night and Ice Cream the next day. Somehow she knew Benjamin’s magic words.
I’ve been trying to post more regularly since we left Flagstaff, so that brings us up to speed.

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