|Welcome to your travels - Garden of the Gods, CO Springs, CO|
Dateline: Santa Fe, New Mexico
At an inn near the Plaza
If I have to hear Finley talk about farts or perform them one more time, I'll scream. Okay, I already have. The kid needs to get a grip. If he doesn't expand his conversation skills, I'll never marry him off.
Potty talk aside, the Grand Southwest Adventure is going... well, it's going. Really, it IS going well. I couldn't ask for a better travel companion than my friend, Shelby. She's a U.S. Air Force pilot (now in the Reserves) and mom to 4-year-old Luke and John, who's nearly 2. She's organized without being rigid. Major Shelby casually mentioned "ops checking" equipment before the trip, as only someone with a military background could. She has a folder full of Google directions, a bag of AAA guides and maps, plus coolers of snacks and containers of kid toys. It makes for a packed, well-stocked Subaru Outback. The kids sit sardined in booster seats in the back row (John's home with Shelby's husband, Matt). We spend 5 minutes before each new excursion strapping everyone in. The exercise makes my mini-van look very attractive, if not outright sexy (yeah, it's still a minivan).
Rocky Mountain Highlights
Fiona, Finley and I spent 2 nights at Matt and Shelby's in Monument, CO before setting out on this road trip. Monument is a suburb of CO Springs, and the subdivision our friends live in sprawls for miles. The streets have names like Leather Chaps Drive and Bowstring Road. You can see the Air Force Academy and Rocky mountains (including Pike's Peak) from the house. Shelby told me they have thunderstorms nearly every afternoon in summer. We witnessed flashing lighting and crackling thunder two days in a row. Fiona said, “Mommy, I’m scared of the lightning. Is it gonna get us?” It reminded me of summers in Ohio, with its foundation-shaking storms.
Matt and Shelby made it clear from the start they'd spoil me: Matt prepared chicken with red pepper sauce and zucchini linguine one night, and pistachio-encrusted orange roughy the next. In the guest room sat a basket of snacks and a book: 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Shelby told me she'd keep an ear out for the kids each morning so I could run. That is a very big deal: I can't run outside at my house, because (aside from once a week when a neighbor graciously kid sits), there's no one there but me. I've gotten quite cozy with my basement treadmill. From the moment Shelby picked us up at the airport, I've felt care-taken. What a gift now that my main, "Let me do this," "I'll take care of that..." person is gone. I've lost my partner and advocate who also saved me from my baser impulses. Not only is there no one to muzzle my inner 4-year-old day-to-day, but I'm primary shepard for 4-year-old Finn and 6-year-old Fiona. Someone always needs me. Desperately.
Someone Else Steer
For now, I'm content to sit in the passenger seat and let Shelby take the wheel. She drove us to the Garden of the Gods, comprised of 300 feet tall sandstone rock formations near CO Springs. I had a few minutes between the rocks to sit and think about the fact Sean brought us there. Even Finley said, “Daddy’s walking with us. Daddy’s lifting us up on the rocks.” I can't imagine taking this trip if it weren't for Sean: The friendships he helped cement, the struggles he endured, the death that stole him from us much too soon. And I wonder if he would've been able to walk 40 stairs, scramble up rocks, carry children... then realize the question is moot.
Thankfully, Shelby and I are 2 strong moms who lift luggage, ascend stairs and distribute snacks with the best of them. I hoisted Finley onto my back when he fell asleep on a restaurant banquette after dinner in Santa Fe. The kids were drained, thanks to a morning of sightseeing at the Plaza and an afternoon of swimming at the hotel pool. As a bonus, Shelby encouraged me to visit the 10,000 Waves spa. The Japanese-themed bathhouse/massage center is featured in the 1,000 Places book, which says, "Check your modesty at the front desk at this oasis of pools, comprised of seven private tubs and two communal baths." Nudity seems to be the requirement and not the option, but after a 55-minute sandalwood scented rubdown, I forgot to care about lack of swimwear while wandering from 106-degree water to a 55-degree plunge pool in the women's-only baths.
400+ miles after leaving Monument, Colorado, we arrived in Santa Fe, a city of artists, earth-colored stucco homes and the panorama of the Sangre de Cristo and Jimez Mountains.
Someone wrote on my Facebook wall that Santa Fe means, "Saint Faith," and that it was a fitting theme for my journey [I later read in a guidebook the name means "Holy Faith." Whatever. You get the idea]. Faith in... God? Sure, if that means, "What the hell, God?" Although, I’m not yet ready to renounce my faith, because that would be akin to renouncing myself and those I love. In my church (Episcopal) and many others, we say, “God be with you.” I also believe that blessing means, “God is IN you.” And so, I am reluctant to give up on God and in everyone on the planet. Faith for this journey means relying on the kindness of friends, family and strangers, because:
-We will get lost.
-We will get cranky.
-We will get injured (we’ve already had one flesh wound; more about that later).
So yes, a certain amount of faith is required for a year-long journey abroad; even for a 2-week jaunt in the American Southwest. And it helps that the vast majority of Good Samaritans rarely chant about flatulence at rock concert volume in the car.