ODOMETER 1366 (still) – the flip side
When Dad and I first started talking about going on this trip, he said that he would like to come back through Oregon and visit Uncle Frank. I suggested that maybe we could go see Vera, too, while we were driving around. We decided to check into it. We worked the mileage numbers a couple of times and I just couldn’t see how we could do it without taking an extra day. If we drove from Cristie’s place to Uncle Frank’s place and then on to Vera’s place on Monday, that would be 725 miles, a bit far for one day’s drive, especially since we wanted to be able to spend time with both Uncle Frank and Vera on that same day (plus I wanted to see Cousin Ron, too, since Uncle Frank lives near him now). Driving from Vera’s place to Caliente (575 miles) plus me driving the rest of the way to Vegas (160 miles) on Tuesday was 735 miles, another really long day, and I had to be back to work on Wednesday. It just didn’t seem possible. A week or so before the big trip I was hashing it out with Dad over the phone (again) and finally I told him that the only way we could do it is if we left Cristie’s place after church on Sunday and traveled part of the way then. I didn’t know if Dad would want to go for it, since he hates to drive on Sunday, but I guess his wish to visit his brother and Vera won out, so he agreed to it. Of course Cristie and her family were bitterly disappointed that we were leaving them a day early, but them’s the breaks. (Actually, they were probably celebrating.)
My plan was that we would leave Cristie’s house and go to Uncle Frank’s place. Since that was only about 190 miles, I figured we could hang out there for a few hours and then drive further towards Vera’s place before stopping for the night. It would make Monday’s drive shorter and we could spend more time with Vera. She had told me that she could get off work for the afternoon, so I wanted to get there as early as possible. The day after my discussion with Dad, I sent an e-mail to both Uncle Frank and Cousin Ron, telling them that we were going to be in their town on Sunday, June 20 (which also happened to be Father’s Day), probably mid-afternoon. I said that we would like to stop and visit them for a bit if they were available. I sent off the e-mail just before going to lunch that day. By the time I came back, I had responses from both of them. Ron said that Dad had called Uncle Frank and told him that we were spending the night there, and two of Ron’s sons were going to be out of town that day, so he offered those two bedrooms for us to stay. Uncle Frank’s e-mail said basically the same thing. My dad, the big blabbermouth! I should have known he’d jump onto the phone immediately! So much for my plans!
Cristie told me that her church is a half hour away from her house and in the direction we were leaving town, so she suggested that we leave from church (probably another excuse to get rid of us sooner), so that’s what we did. We went to church and then got in the car to drive to Uncle Frank’s place. The car was getting very low on gas, so we needed to stop at the next available gas station to fill up. I was also eager to change out of my church clothes. We drove off into the rainy, curvy, mountainous roads and passed several small towns without a gas station. I was starting to get worried that we were going to run out of gas. Finally, in a little town called Elba (yes, the same name as the place where Napoleon was exiled—I don’t know why that seemed appropriate), we found a gas station. I left Dad in charge of filling up (it was an old pump and we had to get help operating it from a friendly passer-by), grabbed my clothes, and headed inside, only to be told that they didn’t have a bathroom. As I gaped at the woman in astonishment, she suggested that we go to the train depot down the street. Over $3.50 per gallon for gas, and no bathroom. Elba, indeed. We drove on.
Further down the road, we stopped so I could change. Dad didn’t understand why we couldn’t just keep going to Uncle Frank’s place and I could change there, but I didn’t much like the idea of arriving and saying “Hi-where’s-the-bathroom?” Since I was driving, I exited the freeway and stopped at a Wendy’s. Dad said he would just stay in the car. I went inside, used the bathroom, changed my clothes, bought a Frostee for Dad, and returned to car. The car was empty and, of course locked. No Dad and no car keys. There I stood in the cold, wearing short sleeves and crop pants with sandals, clutching Dad’s Frostee and my purse in one hand and a bundle of church clothes and high heeled sandals falling out of the other. (I could add drama to the story by saying it was also raining, but at that moment it had stopped. And people think I exaggerate!) I walked in and out of Wendy's a few times, but no Dad in sight. I thought about trying to call him, so I pulled out my cell phone and saw that Cristie had called a couple of times (my phone was still on silent since being in church), so I stood by the car and called her back. Right when she answered, my car alarm started going off. If I was trying to be inconspicuous, that plan was over! It turned out that Dad had pocket-activated my car alarm while coming out of the Wendy's bathroom, but it took me a while to convince him that yes, that's our car blaring away, and not only did he set it off, he had to make it stop. And, of course, he didn’t want the Frostee (but he ate it anyway).
(In case you’re wondering why Cristie was calling, she had given us faulty directions and could have gotten us seriously lost while we were frantically searching for a gas station, but we were able to figure it out before we got too far afield. See, Cristie, I didn’t even mention that part! Aren’t you glad?)
We made it to Uncle Frank’s place and Dad’s neighbor, Bob, called Dad’s cell phone right when we were getting off the elevator. Bob had a gift for calling right when we were arriving somewhere. He called when we pulled into Brenda’s driveway, he called at Uncle Frank’s place, and again when we arrived at Vera’s. We were standing at Uncle Frank’s door and Dad motioned that I go ahead and knock, but I wanted Dad to be WITH me when we arrived, if you know what I mean! Finally Dad told Bob that he had to go and we went into Uncle Frank’s room. He is in one of those nice facilities with a private apartment upstairs (Uncle Frank’s is a one-bedroom with a kitchen and everything) and a dining room downstairs where they serve meals. Uncle Frank had made arrangements for us to eat dinner with him, but dinner time was a couple hours away. I sat down between Uncle Frank and Dad, and the fun began. Imagine sitting between two older men, and neither one can hear very well. Uncle Frank would say something, and I would have to turn and repeat it to Dad. Then Dad would respond and I would have to turn back to repeat it to Uncle Frank. And on and on and on. It wasn’t very long before the whole process was getting very old. The afternoon seemed to drag on forever and I was wishing that we had stayed at Cristie’s church for the classes! Uncle Frank did have the cutest dog, though. It’s a Corgi, and they aren’t allowed to walk them in the building, so Uncle Frank had a little red wagon leaned against the wall for the dog to ride in when he takes her in and out of the building. Uncle Frank had her do a bunch of tricks for me, and she was so cute. It’s so nice that the people living there can have pets.
Eventually Ron arrived, and we went for a tour around the building before going to eat dinner. In the recreation room we had a little contest throwing bean bags at a target, and I was able to demonstrate that I can’t throw at all. At dinner, they have young girls waiting on the tables and serving the food, and they were so cute with the elderly people living there. The food was really good, too; we had prime rib! It was all very nice. Partway through the dinner, Ron’s daughter called; she had accidentally locked herself out of the house, so he had to rush home and let her in. Good thing it’s only five minutes away! Also during dinner, Ron suggested that he and I go back to his house to talk so that Dad and Uncle Frank could “catch up” there. Dad immediately seemed suspicious. Where were we going? What were we going to do? I thought it was kind of funny. It’s like he thought we were going to get into trouble or something. After dinner we returned to Uncle Frank’s apartment and Ron mentioned it again. I grabbed my coat and we left.
Ron is very musical, and even back in high school he rigged old equipment so that he could record himself playing the different musical parts and harmonizing all by himself. Now he has equipment where he can record 12 different parts himself. I’ve always liked listening to his music, so he played some for me. He participates in a gospel group with some other musicians, and they had some original songs that he played for me, too, that were really good. After that, we just talked. His wife, Jean Ann, died about a year ago, and he told me all about that. He himself was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago, and his own future is uncertain. He is on a cancer medication that he takes every day, and his cancer hasn’t advanced for several years. He believes his cancer has been held in check by prayer, and I admire his faith and devotion. As I’ve said in prior blogs, we don’t share the same religion, but we do share the same faith in Jesus Christ. It’s always fun to talk to him about that.
Eventually Dad and Uncle Frank arrived, and after a bit more chatting and some brownies baked by Ron’s daughter, we all went to bed. It was a very nice visit, and I’m glad that Dad blabbed about us spending the night there. We got up early the next morning and continued on our journey.
Next chapter: Visiting Vera and goin’ home.
5 weeks ago