I have spontaneous memories that kick up at inconvenient times… And I think while I still have them and they are fresh… I should write them down.
I did not blog anything about the trip out west while in progress or afterward. I limited myself to Instagram posts while we were traveling, but did not have a free second to post my thoughts while RV’ing. And, I knew Summer was reading everything I would have posted, and I was not going to be sharing deep thoughts that might bring her down.
This was a trip for the ages… And we were steamrolling the country!
Last night, I was going back through some of my posts and was happy to see that @Sweet_dreams_of had liked one of my Instagram posts from the trip. I knew she was watching them, just like the blog, so I kept everything “up” and “just the facts”. So, I know this memory has not been shared!
Summer had a few places that were “musts” and I used those for my route planning. Yellowstone NP, Craters of the Moon NP, and Pirozhki Piroshky were the big three. We hit Yellowstone and did a lot in one day. I was shocked at how much we accomplished in that park, even with traffic down to one lane and us attempting to park the Fort’s Camper. That night, I made a command decision to avoid Jackson and the Tetons. Summer was doing OK at this point… But we were moving slowly! The map showed that we were 4 hours away from Craters of the Moon and the departure times in the mornings were getting later and later.
As I recall, over our trip… It was about 50/50 the amount of times we all shared a room as a group versus letting Summer and Nate have their own. The room we had in West Yellowstone had 3 queen beds lined up against a wall. It was a Best Western version of a bunkhouse. The big drawback to all of us in a room was bathroom time. Guys… For the most of pretty quick. Aiden… On the can… Well, that’s a different story. Summer was starting to have some problems with lower body paralysis so Angela was spending a lot of time with her in the mornings. We three guys would head down to breakfast and they would always show up a little later. (Culmination of complications led us to Seattle Children’s Hospital later in the trip)
We put in the 4 hours of driving through the wilds of eastern Idaho to get to one of the least visited National Parks in the country. I sometimes marvel at how good we have it in Central Illinois after driving across areas like this. Baren and unoccupied. What areas that do have any population are pretty downtrodden. Old mining towns or Cold War military bases litter these outlier areas of the country and it appears that they never recover as time marches on. I feel that our home state of Illinois, which people say is failing in all directions, is like a growing metropolis in comparison.
Once at Craters of the Moon… I had to scratch my head. There were no lines. There might not have been a center turn lane for high-traffic days. This… seemed like an odd choice for a “destination”. Maybe to someone like me or you. To Summer… the “Rock Nerd” geology major that we all knew her to be… This was Shangrila.
Craters of the Moon gets its name from the Apollo Astronaut testing that was done here to simulate the conditions that they might find on the moon. The landscape is a series of ancient lava flows that are still preserved today in fields of black lava stone for as far as you can see. The park is not very accommodating for wheelchairs. By this time of the trip… Summer was no longer walking anywhere. We found a small accessible section of the park and did the “loop”. We also spent a ton of time in the visitors center while Angela, Summer, and Nate knocked out another Jr Ranger workbook.
Since this stop was on the bucket list… I blew my tourist money like a drunken sailor at this gift shop. We bought posters, picture frames, hats, and t-shirts with reckless abandon. They don’t get many guests out here and I think the ranger manning the gift shop was in shock at how excited we were to get souvenirs from this desolate little park.
Before we loaded up the truck… I looked at Summer and hoped for a real answer to a pressing question. I knew she was suffering physically. The legs were no longer working and like I said before… Her morning preps were getting longer and longer.
I am not sure if she was playing me or was in a frail state. She looked back at me and with very little hesitation and childlike softness said “We aren’t going to Seattle?” This is the part that sticks with me. Her tone was meek, but she was still ready to power west. Even though it was an honest question… Her response was pointed back as if I was taking this away from her.
“Do you still want to go to Seattle? Are you OK?” I asked purposely in the tone of an officer checking someone for field sobriety.
“I want to go to Piroshky Piroshky with Nate”.
I went on to remind her that we were going to have to drive a lot. Seattle was still surprisingly far away. I was not trying to get her to go home… I was only giving her an out if she was not feeling like she could make it. I should have known better. She would have lied through her teeth to make us believe she was fine during that trip.
We loaded up the RV and drove around the park a little more. Ang and I ran up a few overlooks and snagged a few more pictures as a storm started rolling in.
I set the GPS for Seattle and checked the route. Boise would be our next stop for a hotel. Another 3 hours! The storm brought in some low-hanging clouds and lightning. Against the now darkened black lava flows… The area looked extra desolate and menacing.
Seattle had some stories as well… I may build on them as I remember things. I had written bits and pieces of this one over the past month. There are about 5 posts that are half-written in my drafts. My creative free time has been sucked down and I hate that I don’t have the energy or motivation to sit down and write like I did during the “Storm” of Summer’s journey. (I hate that word BTW) . I need to turn off Netflix and Prime and spend more time tapping these keys.