We did it.
$1200 in gas.
But, we did it and we have returned. So much to report, so much to describe that I will do my best to hit the highlights and then, in a second post, describe my life since we returned.
As Dickens once penned, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times", so in that tradition, here are the best and worst moments of the trip (however, let me point out from experience that often the worst moments, with time, become some of the funniest in retrospect):
Seeing the amazing terrain of some of these states. Idaho and Utah almost defy description in their sheer beauty. Likewise, Wyoming is flat, Just FLAT.
Getting to eat a pork tenderloin sandwich again. They don't have them out here for some reason.
Watching the fireflies because they are also not found in Oregon.
Lying in the tent at night listening to traffic roar, frogs croak, crickets chirp, trains whistle and wind blow. The best go to sleep music on the planet.
Sharing a tent only with Joseph--kids in their own. Perfect way to rekindle romance!
Relishing the several thunderstorms we experienced because, once again, none in Oregon. Sitting in a parking lot and watching the storm roll in over the water and gasping at the lightning bolts and getting goosebumps from the roar of thunder.
Watching the faces of two of my kids as they saw their first professional live theatre production. Their passion and enthusiasm matched my own.
Being pleasantly shocked that not only were we averaging almost 27 mpg (on a 14 year old van with 200,000 miles on it) but that gas prices go DOWN as you travel east.
Talking to former neighbors and watching them marvel at how much the kids have grown. Realizing that you were more important to some people than you had ever realized before.
Seeing Nicole meet up with her former best friend in Indiana and realize how much they have grown and changed.
Sitting in a restaurant overlooking the lake in Winona Lake and enjoying being with everyone.
Having dinner at my forever friend's house and laughing and talking like we had seen each other last week. Knowing that this is a relationship I will have the rest of my life and realizing what a blessing that is.
Swimming in the hotel pool all together playing and laughing, then later watching the kids horse around. Blissful.
Getting ALL THE WAY HOME with the trailer in one piece.
Seeing my friend of 24 years for the first time and knowing that my visit gave him a reason to fight the cancer harder. Making him laugh, going over old memories and holding hands.
Sitting around the table with the kids and trying to come up with the names of all the Seven Dwarves. Missing one each time so we started making them up. Our favorites were Wheezy for Nicole (she had a cough), Dupey for Coryn and Moody for Caspian.
Maryann's green beans. YUMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. I don't know how she does it, but they are so good I could eat gallons of them.
Shocked at how many books Coryn can read. Is it NORMAL for a 12 year old to read 4 to 6 books a day (albeit, spending the day in a car for 400 miles. . . )??? I read 6 books on the trip. Nicole read about the same. Caspian read 10 or 11. Coryn read more than 30. Good heavens.
Listening to my husband attempt to sing Karoake at a KOA Campground. The man is superb at most things--fantastic husband, father, lover and friend. But carrying a tune is not his strong suit. However, his enthusiasm for doing it helped he and Nicole pull of a decent rendition of "The House of the Rising Sun".
Having earned the nickname "The Urinator" from my family (I was put on megadose diuretics two days beore the trip), I spent every night of the trip making multiple trips to the closest bathroom. One night, fed up with the trip at a KOA Campground, I decided to pee around the back of the tent. I did. Apparently I also drown an entire ant colony living there because they swarmed on my legs (I not even noticing yet) and as soon as I crawled in my sleeping bag, they made my life a living hell by crawling all over me--including in my hair. My husband told me I was imagining things. Yes, he is still alive but only because he was the driver. In the morning, I showed him the pile of dead ants I killed as proof.
Pitching three tents in the dark at a campground where, apparently, they had kept mosquitoes under lock and key until we got there. Once released, they dined a plenty on the Orr family. Between slaps, swearing and looking for tent poles, it made for an exhausting moment, yet one that gets funnier with time.
Feeling your mattress slowly sink to the ground during the night . . . and finding that your middle aged body does not adjust to the tround as well as it once did. To counteract it, however, laughing your ass off at your husband as he pumps the mattress back up buck naked by flashlight.
Nonstop backache riding in the car. Meet my new friend, Mr. Vicodin.
When Maryann fell off the end of the bench at the restaurant our last day there and scared all of us to death.
Realizing that, one by one, each of my kids was coming down with somethign that included headaches, sore throats and high fevers. Hoping J didn't get it since he's the driver (he didn't).
The trailer fiasco . . . can't begin to include the whole story here. Suffice to say, we got enough things at my mom's that we could either ship it back or use a trailer. Shipping seemed ridiculously expensive. So we went with the trailer idea. U Haul was almost $400 and then we would have nothing to show for it. So we had a hitch installed, bought a trailer and for two painful days my poor husband struggled endlessly to put it together with 4000 parts and directions roughly translated by an illiterate Japanese hobo. A half dozen trips to get more parts or different ones or wood for the sides and bottom or more wrenches and sockets and rachets. Seeing my hubby get more and more tense. Seeing the cost go up and up ($800 all told). Finally, heading out of town, stopping on the way to get a license for the trailer and finding that all DMVs are shut down in Indiana on Mondays.
90 minutes in a rest park because we lost all the lights on the trailer on the left side. Joseph working like hell to figure out WHY and WHAT. Asking an intimidating trucker for some help and finding out he used to be an electrician. He figured out the problem in 5 minutes and we were soon on our way. Followed by Nicole, Coryn and I's "Happy Light Dance" in the middle of the parking lot.
The van not starting in Pennslyvania, having it towed two blocks and then they couldn't really fix it. J. gashing his toe on the way there.
Coryn falling in a parking lot and skinning up his knee pretty nicely.
Going through my mother's stuff at her house. So glad I got there in time to do it but oh my, it broke my heart. I cried and cried and cried. So hard to accept she is gone. Came home with many reminders and special treasures. She will always be a part of my mind, my heart and my life.
Realizing that although we were only 8 hours apart instead of almost 8 days, we would not be able to meet up with our friends living in Maine. They could not get there when we would be there. We were all sad because that was going to be a real highlight for all of us.
My ankles, feet and calves swelling up so much each day we travelled that I could not wear my shoes or walk comfortably. Of course, this led to peeing all night. Typical me trying to figure out how many calories I can burn just with trips to and from the bathroom.
Getting hit in the face with a bungi cord you are trying to fasten. MAN, does it HURT. Swollen cheek, swollen lip.
Joseph went to lie down at a rest stop. Spread out the sleeping bag while the boys walked the dog and I cleaned up the van. Seconds later, he is hightailing it back to the van, clearly chased by SOMETHING yet invisible to me. I am thinking that if it's bees and he is running to the van, I will have to later kick him. It turned out to the world's most ravenous mosquitoes who had been lying in wait in the tall grass, much like raptors. They literally swarmed him and chased him around the van several times. I ran after him flapping a shirt and laughing my butt off.
Having a bucketload of pennies from my parent's house that I wanted to turn in at the bank. Finding out that most banks won't take them if you don't roll them or have an account. Finding out that Coinstars are often broken. Finally, in grand irony, donating them to a disaster relief fund that sends cleaning products to those who have gone through a flood, quake, etc. Nothing could have been more appropriate for my parents' money than to give it in for cleaning supplies.
The person I went to visit in PA is in prison. To get in to visit takes a lot of paperwork, all of which I had done already. However, I didn't get a list of all of the rules. . including that you cannot wear tank tops in to visit. Yes, I wore a tank top. You can wear one if you have a jacket. I had a jacket. It had a hood. You cannot wear hooded jackets. Now what? My luggage was 40 miles away at the hotel. Gallantly, Joseph took off his shirt and gave it to me to wear (a Volkswagen t-shirt, what else?) This left him without a shirt so I gave him my hoodie. Sadly, it was BRIGHT pink. Since I couldn't take my purse in either, J got to hold it also. Let me tell you, it was a sight!!! The friend I visited said that Joseph made such an impression on the other guys that he is collecting fan letters from them (600 plus to date) and they are all hoping J has pink leotards to go with the hoodie and that he will send pics. :)
In between Pendleton and Hermiston, Oregon, we met a couple who live in Goshen, Indiana (a city between where I was born and raised and where I lived with Joseph). Small world! Days and miles later, we ran into them again in a gas station. Eerie. More days and miles later and we ran into them at a rest stop. Cue "Twilight Zone" music. This is just bizarre. They are lovely, very religious couple, and I am wondering if they were helping us adjust mentally to returning to conservative Indiana.
Eating in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming a/k/a Zombieville. All of the stores were closed and boarded up. There were hardly any people on the street. We ate at a restaurant and the people barely spoke plus had been born oddly enough without any personality. It led us to making up great storylines for horror books. "The Orrs Come to Pine Bluff . .. and Never Return"; "The Orrs for Dinner in Zombieville" and "Welcome to Pine Bluffs . . Leave your Personality and Life Force at the City Limits". It became quite a joke for all of us.
Sleeping in your mother in laws' bed.
Having your mother in law wash and fold your underwear.