Road Trip 2013: Day 5, September 3, 2013

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Picnic Lunch in the Desert!

Disclaimer: Today's blog is over 5 typed pages long. If you are looking for the cliff notes version, here it is: Good day.

We all slept well in Blyth, California.  Whitman did wake up a few times which no one heard but me and Robby woke up at 4:45 to check my parents in for their flight.  Today was probably one of our few days that we could take things a bit slower so we slept until after 7.  Keaton was the first one to start stirring followed by Graham and Campbell.  Reagan and Anderson are like teenagers and could sleep all day long.  

We had breakfast at the hotel and it was a pretty good spread, not

nearly as fancy as Sonia’s yesterday but she might have spoiled us.  We left around 8:50 and have the car fairly neat this morning.  The first thing we noticed was the price of gas: 4.05.  We expected prices that high but about 20 miles behind us in Arizona, the price was 3.25.  

The first part of the drive was beautiful.  There were purple mountain majesties all around us.  They were not above the fruited plain like the song says.  Instead they were above desert land but it still was something to see.  The kids watched a Ghostbusters cartoon, Robby did some work and I tried to debate what to pass out first for a snack and what I would have for my snack.

Before too long, we stopped at our first stop: General George Patton Museum.  It was the sight of Camp Morgan-that is where troops trained in WWII before shipping out to the North African desert.  Oh the things you learn on vacation.  They had a short film which we watched some of before walking around the museum.  Anderson was standing by an antique record player when the lid slammed down.  It made a big crash and his eyes were as big as saucers.  

They had some old war stuff to look at.  Then we went right passed the sign that said “caution rattlesnakes” and ventured into an area with lots of old WWII tanks.  The boys were in heaven and us girls were just hot!  Robby and I commented that we were glad we were born after the air conditioner was invented.

By now it was nearing lunch and Robby found a lunch spot on his phone and typed in the address.  From my perspective it just looked like he was driving us deeper and deeper into the desert to just drop all of us off.  But around the last bend in the road, we arrived at the Coachella Valley Preserve.  As far as you could see, it was desert land except for in this little area that had lots of palm trees.  They were huge and provided perfect shade for our picnic in this 105 degree weather.  

We devoured our sandwiches and Robby and I ate some salsa Sonia had packed for us.  Then we took a trail through a bit of swamp land in the middle of the desert.  Pretty amazing-that little area is on the San Andreas fault and water creeps up through the fissures there causing it to be almost like swamp land.  By the time we finished the short little trail, we were sweating like crazy and welcomed our water in the van.  

Back on the interstate, we saw lots and lots of windmill farms.  Campbell tried her best to count them but when you can’t count over 10 it gets difficult.  She also squealed when she saw a “baby windmill that Keaton could touch.”  Robby explained about windmills and how they could make electricity along with others power sources.  About 10 minutes later, Anderson asked “how does water make electricity?”  Someone listened so we were shocked!  And as Robby was explaining the answer, Anderson said “ok, you can start the movie now.”  That is all Anderson wants to do in the car is watch the movie-he couldn’t even break away from it for 2 minutes to listen to the answer to his question.  

Earlier in the day, a road that we had wanted to take to travel into Joshua Tree National Park was closed due to flooding (in the desert?) so we had to drive a bit out of our way to get there.  It wasn’t too much but did change our schedule.  When we made it to the first visitor center, I ran in to ask for a map and the park ranger gave me the low down.  He suggested a good mile hike-I giggled about taking my crew on a one milke hike as I walked back to the car.

The kids had their checklist and were trying to find plants, animals and rock formations as we drove around the park.  When we made it to where the ranger said to hike (Barker Dam) Robby turned down to the parking lot.  It was sunny so he just went to look at the trail map thinking I would just sit in the car with the baby.  

When he came back to the car, he said that there was a breeze and asked if I wanted to do some of it.  I suited up with Whitman and we were all off.  We took our water and hats and headed out.  I really just thought we would go a bit and turn right around but that wasn’t the case.  It was warm but there was a decent breeze and when you were near enough to the rocks to be in the shade it was almost nice.  

The first event was the kids seeing a lizard.  It was about 7 or 8 inches long so this caused a big stir and all of that scared Keaton.  She thought they were all upset and she started fussing.  Once she was calm, we walked more down the trail-similar to the bottom part of Pinnacle but with boulders and cactus beside you instead of trees and plants.  Then the trail became a bit more rocky.  We stopped under a rock to take a break and drink some water while wondering if we were still on the trail (we thought so) and also wondering how much further we had to go or if we should turn back (not many trail markers).

Robby walked a bit to preview what was next and decided that we should press on.  We made it to the dam and then checked the picture on the camera of the trail map that he took at the beginning of the hike.  When the kids heard us talking about where the trail was, if it ended and what we should do, they started freaking out.  It if had been 105 like earlier in the day things could have been not so good but this was fine-hot but comfortable, plenty of water and it was daylight.  Anderson was very ready to just turn right around and head back but we scaled a few rocks to follow the trail.

Yes, I said scaled a few rocks-imagine that.  Robby holding Keaton, Whitman in my carrier and me holding Campbell’s hand, Reagan telling the boys to be careful, Anderson trying to stay as close to the rock wall as he could and Graham who was full of energy hopping from rock to rock.  After a bit we did make it down the hill and were on a trail-maybe not the trail we were supposed to be on but a trail.  The trail was beautiful and I am so glad that we pressed on-we were beside huge boulders, Joshua trees, saw some little frogs and even saw a cheese bush (smelled like cheese-so the sign said).  

About a quarter of a mile later, we made it to petroglyphs.  The kids were pretty impressed with the Native American art.  And when Robby scaled the rocks to get a closer look they were hot on his trail-even Anderson.  Now as soon as Anderson was up the rocks, he was ready to come dwon.  He is so cautious (diplomatic way of saying scaredy cat).  Keaton even wanted to climb up and at the back of the little cave was a hole so Whitman and I walked around to the back of the rocks to see if they could come down that way.  Probably never a good idea to leave the trail but it wasn’t that far.  And they were all able to hop down with my help so this bit of rock climbing was most of the kids favorite part of the day.  Reagan went on and on about how much fun it was.  She even said that it was “triple diple awesome”-I think that is good.

After the petroglyphs, I followed the trail headed to the parking lot and Robby and the kids who were off-trailing it met me.  After about 10 yards, Robby decided that he doubted my sign reading skills so he doubled back with us all trailing him.  And I, in fact, was correct-actually, I didn’t mind him double checking-being lost on a trail is not my idea of a vacation.  Near the end of the trail, we saw a sign by a plant naming it a “cheese bush”-or something similar.  The plant was supposed to smell like cheese.  We never could smell the cheesy smell but thought that was an interesting plant.  

About this time, Keaton who had walked quite a bit was getting tired.  She let Robby put her on his shoulders but then she nearly had to be taken down when she realized how high she was.  But she calmed and rode the rest of the way happily on his shoulders.  Campbell looked up Keaton and noticed her shorts falling a bit and said “I see some crack up there.”
At the end of the trail, we stopped in the bathrooms.  Campbell was sitting on the potty forever and I finally asked if she was done.  She said yes and then I asked what she was doing.  She said “I was just feeling the air on my bottom.”  I then explained to her that there were probably rattlesnakes in that potty-that child jumped off the potty and would have ran out of that bathroom with her pants around her ankles if I had not stopped her.

A few more miles down the road and we were at the visitors center.  The kids had a few pages to do to complete their Jr. Ranger books.  And then they turned in their books and the nice ranger man checked every single page of their books-all 4 of them.  And it took forever-Whitman, Robby and Keaton stayed in the car.  Finally, they were awarded their badges, along with a book and seeds to plant a Joshua tree.  Anderson was so proud to show his badge to Robby when he came back to the car.  

Back in town, we we decided to stop by Walmart for more drinks, milk, diaper cream (Robby left it at Ikea-we think) and shoes for Anderson.  Probably by the end of the trip all of the Dennie kids will have new shoes!  Ha! Yesterday, I had noticed that Anderson’s toes had little blisters on the bottom of them.  He acted like it didn’t hurt him but it was odd.  Robby and I knew that his shoes were a bit big but I didn’t think they were that big.  So today we just thought we would pick up some so I took Anderson into Walmart with me while Robby ran to pick up Sonic drinks.  

When we were in the store, I took off Anderson’s shoes and looked at the size-4s!  Whoops, I figure that when I bought him a size 2 last time that the hanger thing was wrong.  The real size 2s did fit much better.  We had a few minutes so I kept looking for other size 2s.  He found some and I asked if he would try them on and then he would say that he didn’t really like them.  Eventually, I figured out that he didn’t want to try on anymore shoes even if he did like them better.

After checking out, Anderson and I just sat outside waiting on the others since the weather was so pleasant.  The crew picked us up and then we headed back through windmill valley to Palm Springs.  This time Keaton was the one spotting the windmills and she kept screaming “look, look” and Campbell was right along with her saying “spinny things, spinny things.”  We took our customary picture at the Palm Springs sign.  And yes, I was behind the sign holding tightly on to Whitman in one of the pictures-don’t worry mother!  Then we drove around their main strip-wonder if we stick out in our big van full of 6 kids watching Duck Dynasty with Arkansas tags-bet people are wondering if we have shoes on.  

We were a bit too tired to take a walk down the strip but it looks like a neat town.   Campbell is the only one actually looking out of the window-she has noticed the lights on the stores, the pretty hotels and even the pink sky.  We stopped to mail a box and then to the gas station for gas and potties.  We told the kids that this was a short day but in fact we drove almost 200 miles over what we told them and this was our latest night yet of the trip.  

By the gas station stop, we had just about lost control of the kids.  Whitman was fussing and didn’t want his bottle, Keaton kept crying “Daddy, Daddy” whenever he left her sight, Campbell could NOT stop talking, Anderson kept fussing at everyone to be quiet so he could hear his movie, Graham was hysterical because he had dropped a penny and Reagan was beside herself because she had to go potty.  We had everyone nearly calm and then we were off for the next adventure-Robby’s driving!

After a few u-turns, Robby found some back ally ways to find Little Ceasars to pick up supper.  Robby always seems to adopt the driving skills of whatever city we are in-I better get my braking foot ready because tomorrow in LA he will be crossing 6 lanes of traffic to exit just like everyone else.  With supper in hand, we headed to the hotel while looking out for a place to vacuum out the car (Nonna and Pops are meeting us tomorrow.)

Well, we found the perfect spot-a car wash with unlimited vacuuming.  We did our car wash to the delight of all of the kids and then found a spot and started vacuuming the car.  They were closing up shop by this time (9) and only had about 5 vacuums available so that left little room for the kids to sit on the sidewalk.  We started taking EVERYTHING out of the car so Robby could vacuum and then got the kids settled in the front few seats to eat their pizza.  We worked in the back seats and then switched spots with them.  By this time the car wash place was closing and they turned off the vacuums-luckily Robby was finishing.  And then they turned down the lights so we shoved everything back in the car and drove to the hotel.  

At the hotel, Robby waited in line while I tried to sort our stuff.  Everything that went into the hotel, I threw in the parking lot and what stayed in the car I shoved back to its spot-using my handy dandy number system (1a, 4b, 2c…)  A few extra things went into the hotel tonight to be reorganized and Keaton’s car seat cover also went in tonight to be washed with tonight’s laundry.  

We do laundry every night that we can because isn’t it nice not having dirty clothes in a suitcase?  Everything is clean and organized.  Oh and Keaton’s car seat was washed because when I pulled her out at the car wash, she was soaking wet.  I couldn’t figure it out because her diaper was dry so I just left it on her.  A few minutes later she was standing by the van and said “wet” and I looked at her and her little legs were wet but the diaper was dry.  What in the world I wondered.  So I changed her and discovered that whoever put her diaper on the last time had put it on inside out-like the absorbant side was on the outside.  I tried to get Robby to take the blame for that but indeed it was me.  I guess I am slowly losing my mind to put a diaper on the child that poorly-I have never done that before and I have changed a lot of diapers.  

Back to emptying the car in the hotel parking lot.  While I was doing this, Whitman was screaming!!  He is usually perfect in the car and if he gets fussy, I just hand him a bottle but tonight nothing would calm him down.  I breaked briefly from my task to hold him and was able to calm him down but as soon as I tried to set him down, he would start up again.  Meanwhile, Robby was inside getting our room and the worker man heard all of Whitman’s commotion and assured Robby that we were in a room that wasn’t near anyone else.  I guess he thought the baby was going to be noisy-so far though he hasn’t made a peep and was out like a light after I held him for awhile.
All of Whitman’s screaming got to Reagan and she was teary eyed by the time we let the kids climb out of the van.  But after baths she was okay again and even giddy when Robby offered to unfold the pull out sofa sleeper for her and then when he woke up Anderson to join her to look at pictures of the lizard, they were both feeling pretty special.  Back to bathtime though-after baths, Keaton went right to sleep in the closet and the others had some candy and coke before bed-we are on a trip after all.  Everything was going splendid-kids were happy, I was packing and repacking and Robby was putting the laundry in when BAM Campbell hit her head on the table.  Thankfully, she didn’t scream but she will have a huge bump tomorrow!  

It is funny how you can fill your days on a trip.  This wasn’t supposed to be a busy day but was probably one of the busiest.  The boys loved the Patton museum which was just a spur of the moment thing and everyone enjoyed our picnic lunch and that trail.  And I never would have thought that we could have topped that but we sure did at Joshua Tree.  Even though our evening was crazy hectic and I have just now stopped sweating from working so hard, it was still lots of fun.  This is our latest night so far (midnight here, 2 at home) and we still have laundry to put up but it has been a great day.  I know the kids will be up early tomorrow because they are super excited about Nonna and Pops showing up.

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