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home again, home again, jiggety jig

I'll just consolidate the trip back home into one pic-heavy post!

We decided to leave California on Saturday evening rather than early Sunday morning because we knew Sunday was going to be a long day of driving. We got about 3 or 4 hours in and made it just over the CA/AZ border. We spent the night in a hotel - no exciting stories there - and then in the morning got back on the road again (I just can't wait to get on the road again....). We got to Phoenix in the morning and we had two families we wanted to visit. First we visited with my friend Trisha and her family. Her daughter Kenna and Lucy have been pen pals for about a year now so it was really fun for them to meet in person! Unfortunately we all left our brains at home that day and no one thought to take a picture.

Bye, California beach!

 Then we went to another area of Phoenix and met up with Jeff and Kim. David and Jeff were good friends growing up in Apple Valley. We got to spend about an hour catching up with them and their cute little guy, Colton.
Penny and Colton (isn't that a great idea for a fireplace cover?).

This Sunday was a day of great excitement because in addition to seeing two different sets of friends, it was also an annular eclipse! I had fortunately realized this before our trip and ordered some eclipse glasses and had them shipped to my brother-in-law's house in San Diego. So we were prepared! When we realized it was starting to happen, we found a place to pull over and watch the show.

Unfortunately, my warnings to "never look at the sun without the safety glasses on" was too scary, and Truman and Penny were too frightened to even come out of the car and watch it.

Then we drove on...more...and more... and finally got to a little route 66 motel in Moriarty, NM. By the light of day in the morning, we saw that it was actually pretty dang cute. (so is the kid, if I do say so myself.) (and I do.)

That day we drove a bunch again and ended up in Oklahoma City. We stayed at a really horrible little place that was advertised to be like a resort but was, in reality, a run-down apartment complex where they rent out some of the units like a hotel. The only good thing is that the kids had room to run around the bedrooms and play hide-n-seek. We were excited about there being a washer/dryer but the stupid machine took 4 hours to do a single load (what's so high efficiency about high efficiency machines? I am beginning to wonder). We were very happy to get the heck outta dodge in the morning. We drove about six hours to Joplin. On our way there, randomly David said, "Oh look. A banana." I looked up from my Kindle, and, yes, he was right. There was a banana driving down I-44. Being driven by, who else - a rastafarian muppet.

Our final destination that afternoon was Joplin, MO. This was the one-year anniversary of our stop in Joplin and the tornado that wiped out a big part of the town. It was our first trip back. First we stopped at the rest area where we'd stopped last year, where I fatefully overheard two drivers discussing a "funnel cloud" they'd heard about on the radio. If not for that... well. Not even worth thinking about.

We really wanted to see the steepleraising ceremony at the LDS stake center and we knew what time that was happening, so we drove as close as we could. A lot of streets were closed because of an all-day Walk of Unity going on. We weren't going to take part in the walk itself; it felt almost like intruding on something very intimate to even be there, but since Joplin is now part of our family's history, we did want to see parts of the celebrations. 

As soon as you reach a certain area of town, the damaged area is readily apparent. This is a residential street; you can see the house number and the driveway cut into the curb, but there is no house and no driveway. In the distance is a stripped bare tree that has been painted in bright rainbow colors. We wanted to go closer to see it better, but there was a small group congregating around it holding balloons, and we had the impression it was a person or several people who had lost children in the tornado, so we kept our distance.

There were loads of people in yellow t-shirts - Mormon Helping Hands shirts - so it was easy to spot the stake center! We only had to walk a few blocks. There were Red Cross volunteers handing out water and granola bars. Any time a police or firefighter passed by, such as in this picture, the crowds would start clapping, whistling, and yelling. It was interesting to watch.

We soon realized we'd need sunblock, so I and the kids stayed put while David went back to the van to get it. As we were standing there, a couple of women next to me were talking excitedly because one of them had gotten to go up and actually touch the steeple that they were about to place on top of the building. A man in a white shirt and tie - I don't know if he was her bishop or what - came up and greeted her. She told him, "I got to touch the steeple!" and he said, "Now that's a story you can tell your grandchildren!" The smile fell from her face, and almost as quickly, from his too. "I won't have any grandchildren now," she said. "I know that, I'm so sorry," he said. They embraced and I heard him talk to her softly about eternity, and being able to tell the story of touching the steeple to her children there. This all happened less than three feet from me. It was very moving but I also felt like an intruder on this very painful, private moment. I don't know how old her child was.

We stayed for the actual steeple-raising, which was accompanied by some LDS PR guy talking into a microphone that was far too quiet, so I don't know what he said. Then someone started singing 'How Great Thou Art' and everyone joined in. 

Truman got bored and started building things out of the rubble.

Afterwards we swam at our hotel, and ate dinner at the same Cracker Barrel where we'd sought refuge a year before. It was very empty inside; I think 90% of the town was at Cunningham Park for the memorial by that point. We spent the night and in the morning took a little drive to see more of the town. The kids really wanted to go to the park, because we'd seen the Extreme Makeover episode where they rebuilt the playground. 

Then we finally, mercifully, made our way back home. We are done with long distance driving for a long time! 


  1. Wow! What a great trip. I am ready to pack my people up and go....just go to convince the husband who thinks three hours is too long to be in the car.

    I feel very teary over the Joplin stuff. They've lost so much. I'm glad you shared that.


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