Living Sinking In
Summer is almost gone. It's been one year since I left the life I knew. In fact, I celebrated my Independence Day last week at a blues club downtown. It was a sorta "date night" with myself. I found a club with a band I wanted to see, got "date" ready, and while having to be designated driver was a pain in the ass, the conversation that night (at least in my head) was never dull. Actually, I'm a damn good date. I will definitely be asking myself out again. Who knows? Maybe I'll get lucky next time.
So this "date night" with myself was an act of self love. The last few months have been challenging for me. My life decisions have begun to settle and cure, and I haven't the courage to pull away the forms supporting them yet. I'm waiting until my heart can handle the permanence. I've been experiencing some not so fun anxiety side affects and am having to find ways to cope. While self love has been difficult at times I'm grateful to have two boys in my life who love me with all their hearts. At times, knowing that, is the only thing that grounds me and holds all my pieces together.
|Homemade birthday card made for me by my son|
If there's a silver lining to any of this change it's been that I have a much more intense connection with my sons. Maybe I intuitively sensed that living my life the way I was living it was slowly killing that connection. Change was imminent. Sometimes my life trajectories feel impossible to control, and in this case, the path back to embracing and enjoying the time with my little men has been steered back onto solid and healthy ground.
A few months back, my youngest saw photographs of Monument Valley in Utah flash on my TV and he immediately wanted to see it for himself. I said, "Let's go!!!"
So I took my boys on their first real deal road trip this summer.
It's not easy to plan a long road trip with only a six day window (part of the shared custody agreement with my ex.) I had so many places I wanted to take them! And then there's the fact that it was middle of Summer, and there would be endless solo driving through the desert with two crazy boys in the backseat. Hmmmmm. Maybe I should have thought that through a little more.
I had a half plan. You know? The half-assed kind where there's lots of room to be flexible. I had only two destinations that HAD to happen. Monument Valley for my youngest and Bryce, for me. I had been to Bryce before, but this time would be different. I was not pregnant and the baby that I had been carrying then was now sitting in the front seat next to me. I was super stoked. My kids had no idea what to expect from this trip. I loved that.
So I mentioned flexible, right? After a failed attempt at a solo trip out to a fire lookout in the Ishi Wilderness the weekend before our road trip, I managed to kill both my phone and my laptop. D-E-A-D. Somehow I managed to return, sadly earlier than expected, and coordinated obtaining a new laptop and a basic burner phone ASAP (literally within 3 hours of arriving home). But, my expectation was that I would have my new phone by the time we left for our family road trip. Truly an expectation. Not a reality.
I had researched driving times and destinations all via the Google Gods. I bookmarked, saved, and shared trip information with my ex mostly for common sense reasons and halfway to convince him that I wasn't trying to run away with the boys. I had no idea that this was a solid concern. I am coming to terms with this realization now. I guess I'm what one would term a "wild card."
|The "Wild Card" (picture taken in Sawtooth Canyon by my youngest little man)|
I'm realizing that many people see me as a wild soul and free spirit. My ex husband isn't the only one to tell me this. Funny how you see yourself differently than those on the outside. And when the mention of it becomes a pattern you can't ignore what others see. "Wild Soul" is probably the nice way of putting it. I will own that I can be unpredictable, especially when I let my heart take the reigns, but my "wildness", whether predictable or not, is never intended to hurt others. It's sole purpose is to appreciate every second of every day of this precious blink called LIFE. Now that I have only myself and my boys, my soul can explore without worry or concern for others being threatened by its trajectory. If there's anything I want to instill in my children it's the fire to explore and discover inside yourself, outside yourself and without worry or fear of what others may think. Honestly, the biggest gift I can give them is the gift of being "wild." To be able to be wild in a world full of so many social rules and constructs is a gift.
|BLM boondocking near Barstow, CA (Sawtooth Canyon)|
So my "wild boys" and I took to the road, sans the new phone I was hoping for. I had Google Maps, a rough itinerary and our first stop was a night in the desert just outside of Barstow on some free BLM land in Sawtooth Canyon. This place? Two words. Climbing Paradise.
After driving nearly 7 hours we were down to about three hours of daylight to explore the rock walls, "caves", and mini cliffs. My boys unleashed all their energy into exploring the area. My kids had an absolute blast camping here. First stop was a success!
The drive to Monument Valley on the second day proved to be more than challenging. After stopping in the South Rim of the Grand Canyon for lunch, we continued to drive, and, drive, and drive…and… get lost. I will admit to losing my shit. My cheapo phone switched over to international roaming once we entered Utah and the surrounding Navaho lands. I had no GPS and no connection to maps whatsoever. So I learned a valuable lesson in road tripping…
ALWAYS HAVE A PAPER MAP.
It's ironic that this little nugget of advice comes from a girl who lives and breathes maps. I love maps! But I failed to bring one. Duh. So I old-schooled it by stopping at a gas station for directions and was lucky that my ultra training kicked in during those last few hours. I was tired, hallucinating, and trying to navigate dark and unfamiliar roads with my precious cargo in the backseat, but finally, 13 hours later we arrived. Mama delivered. I threw open the tailgate of the pickup, dumped everything out but my boys and their sleeping bags, pitched my tent, engaged in one last irritable tantrum, then crashed. My boys woke up, wide-eyed to looming vertical walls of red rock and surreal landscape and were ready to see the monuments.
|Entering the Navaho Reservation|
That valley was unreal. We saw sleeping dragons, eagles, chiefs, hogans and petroglyphs. Just being states away from home in desert landscape was an adventure for my little men. I could see them opening up and absorbing the newness. It was beautiful to be witness to that.
|The petroglyph wall in Monument Valley|
|Stiff brotherly pose in front of the monuments|
After a roll through the Valley we hopped back into the truck enroute to Bryce. After only 40 minutes of driving I realized I needed caffeine STAT! Operating a moving vehicle while sleep deprived is not my skill, but my only option for the next couple hours was blasting loud music and rolling down the window. We were nowhere near a mini mart or Starbucks and the only radio station we could get reception was from a local Hopi Indian station that had Sunday morning native chanting being sung loudly over even louder drumming. My kids still talk about the torture. I have to admit, I became oddly attached to the music and was even more thankful for it's effectiveness.
Bryce was a two-day-chill-out destination. I was stoked to show my oldest the hoodoos and he was excited to hike down into the heart of them. We hiked, relaxed, swam, and camped. I needed the break from driving and the kids needed it too.
|Bryce Canyon hike into the hoodoos|
|Rest stop on the way back out of the canyon|
When it was time to begin the journey home I decided to modify my plans slightly. I originally planned to drive to the Valley of Fire to camp overnight then head back home via the Eastern Sierra stopping at Mono Lake and the hot springs in Bridgeport. That would be an extra two days though, and the boys were missing their friends. So I ended the trip with a surprise stop in Las Vegas (mostly to break up the final long hours of the drive back home) to stay at the Circus Circus hotel where the kids and I had full access to the waterpark there. I was elevated to superhero-mom status. Las Vegas was not exactly the option I would choose but my boys were content and happy and would be home soon to hang out with their buddies.
The trip had it's rough moments, that's for sure, but there was undoubtedly some bonding that occurred on a deeper level between all of us. To me, the road trip is a rite of passage in childhood. It requires equal amounts of patience and wonder and a curiosity for the landscape through which you travel through. And the best part about a road trip like this one is that most other trips after this will feel like a blink of an eye. Until we hit the road for another long haul again.
"Now, on this road trip, my mind seemed to uncrinkle, to breathe, to present to itself a cure for a disease it had not, until now, known it had."
~ Elizabeth Berg