Today (as I’m writing) is Thursday, August 25, 2016. It marks the National Park Service’s 100th birthday! Which parks have you visited? The Grand Canyon? Bryce Canyon? Zion National Park? Which parks are on your list of To See? Sequoia National Park? Arches National Park? Joshua Tree? Did y’all catch the CBS Sunday Morning Segment on Joshua Tree last Sunday? As soon as it appeared, I had to text my dad. We have a little insider about Joshua Trees. And that all started from our dad/daughter trip out West.
My mom is a Beach Mom. She wants her weeklong vacation at the beach and she’d love two of those per year, thank you very much. When my daughter was about two years old and we arrived at the beach after my mom was already there, she said, “Nana must be in her chair.” I mean, the toddler summed it up well. If it is daylight, my mom’s toes are in the sand, book in hand with the emerald horizon stretching to the skies before her. My dad is more of a Wanderlust type. He likes new scenery, new roads, unexpected sights, new restaurants to try…adventure! And so do I.
How does such a polarizing family vacation together? Thank goodness for Spring Break! We’d take a weeklong beach vacation either at Spring Break or during the summer. That gave us time to check out things like Washington D.C., the Grand Canyon, Disney World, and even a trip to chilly San Francisco during the alternating trip. We’ve seen some cool stuff.
Then one year as my sister started 10th grade her French teacher asked who was interested in a trip to Europe. Well I was only in 8th grade so I was not eligible to go. My mom was the one who jumped on board and told my sister, “go for it, and I’m gonna chaperone!” (She must have somehow already soaked up her fourteen days of Florida sun when she said that. And she is a fan of quiche…) So they started planning for their 10 day European vacation and meanwhile my dad said, “well, huh. What should we do then?” Of course the two Wanderlusters of the family were not going to sit home and twiddle our thumbs. Then came the inundation of maps and long-winded conversations of routes we could take driving through Texas. The squiggly red and blue lines blurred before my eyes as I painstakingly listened to different route options and the pros and cons of each. After a few weeks of all of this Texas talk, suddenly he mentioned, “flights are cheap. We could go Out West again!” As an eighth grader I had already been to L.A. on one of our family trips Out West. I was quite fond of all the funkiness at Venice Beach, most especially the roller skating entertainers. And the chain saw juggler. And the funky clothes. I was on board!
After all that planning and booking and reserving we arrived in Los Angeles and the “new” Ford Focus was not available. “For $19 more per day we can set you up with a nice Lincoln Continental, sir.” “I’ll pay $19 a day NOT to drive a Lincoln Continental,” my dad replied, heartbroken and exasperated. We drove away in the Lincoln.
First stop was Sequoia National Park. We bought a cheap piece of pink plastic and I slid down a snowy hill for the better part of an hour or so. My dad took one turn sledding. He was forty something at the time, not that old at all in hindsight, but it looked funny enough! His facial expression screamed, “Boy, I haven’t done this in a long time!”
We went on a snowshoe walk and later hiked up Moro Rock, a desolate hike passing maybe one or two other hikers the entire time. And due to a lot of fog couldn’t see the promised view. But my dad had recently gotten into photography and leaned over the fence to try for an artistic shot. “You’re gonna fall and die!” I screamed. Eventually he pulled himself back to the safe side of the railing.
But that’s not all. We ate blueberry bagels and apples in Death Valley, admired the salty crustiness of the “Devil’s Golf Course,” were awed by the frozen look of salty lakes, left our initials in stones off of Route 66, and climbed giant rocks at Joshua Tree National Park where we had our first campout ever. More blueberry bagels, this time for dinner, paired with canned corn straight from the can (I wonder what European delicacy my mom and sister were eating for dinner that night?) and rootbeer. Our borrowed pup tent smelled musty but we managed to sleep nonetheless, and after having conquered such a grand experience, especially knowing my mom and sister would NOT have wanted to be on this leg of a trip, we both held the Joshua Tree in high regard. So much so that every time we saw Joshua trees after that we always had to say “ahem” as in “ahem, there’s another!” Even at the mention of Joshua Tree via songs off of U2’s album when they played Atlanta in 1999. And the most recent “ahem” was sent by text last Sunday while watching the National Park segment on CBS Sunday Morning. Yup, National Parks have a way of making memories.
At our stop in Palm Canyon, two separate sets of senior citizens saddled over to admire our big boat that had been smoothly gliding us all over the West. My dad politely critiqued the Continental, gently mentioning his failed efforts at securing a Ford Focus as a rental, and received handshakes, head nods, and accolades for such a great ride!