I am breaking my "blogging fast" to tell you about the trip I made the week after school was out. One of the sons of long-time friends of ours has been living in Oregon for three years, first doing an internship in a church, then completing a masters degree. After visiting family here in Greenville over the Christmas break, he and his wife realized how much they missed both sides of the family and decided that they wanted to move back here when David's school year was over.
When David's dad Rick and I were talking after church the first Sunday in April, I asked about their upcoming move. He told me that Hattie and their soon-to-be-two-year-old son Apollo were going to fly back later in April. David was going to drive their car, towing a big U-Haul trailer back to South Carolina the second week of May. Rick wasn't excited about his making the trip alone. Knowing that I wouldn't want to make that trip alone myself, I told him I would be happy to drive back with David, if I could get my body to Oregon. Rick said he would fly me to Oregon if I would drive back with David. Becka thought it was a great idea and said she was glad it was I who was making the drive and not she. Rick checked with David, just to be sure he was willing to spend 5 days on the road with me, and he was!
The least expensive ticket I could find had me arriving several days before David would be able to leave, so I contacted one of my roommates from my college days, Tim, to see if he would be up to a visit from me. He said he definitely was, and he would love to see me and to show me a little bit of Portland, Oregon. So within several days, my one-way ticket was purchased, and I would be on my way out west in about a month. Tim and I would have just an evening and the following full day together before I needed to leave the following morning to join David in Bend, Oregon.
My flight took us over part of the Grand Canyon. I wish it hadn't been so cloudy. If you look carefully, you can make out the canyon beyond the wing of the plane.
You know you have a layover at the airport in Las Vegas when....
Once I got to Portland, it was so nice to see Tim again! He is a great host and tour guide. He is probably even more of a coffee hound than I am, and so during my time with him, he took me to two of his favorite cafés — the Red E Café  and Caffe Vita , both on the same morning! The coffee in both places was wonderful, the cafés themselves were totally cool, and the parts of town where they were located were eclectic, distinctive, and quirky — typical of Portland, as I learned. Tim and I talked and talked and talked, trying to catch up on so many years.
One of the neat places Tim took me to was the International Rose Test Garden . It was a little early in the season, but the flowers were already beautiful!
The rose garden was huge, yet it comprised only a small portion of the flowers I saw in Portland. Because the people love flowers and because everything grows so well there, yard after yard looked like the picture below:
Another neat place Tim took me to was Powell's City of Books  in downtown Portland’s Pearl District. To say the store was overwhelming would be an understatement. The bookstore occupies a whole city block on multiple floors and contains over one million books! Here's the cool pillar at the entrance at the corner of 10th and Couch.
Tim also took me to three neat places to eat, but knowing how much more story I have to tell in this blog post, I will hold off describing them. My second and final evening in Portland, Tim built a fire in his portable fire pit. We sat around with some of his family and a neighbor man, talking and laughing. Here's the fire in its early stages while it was still light out. Tim kept the fire stoked and the conversation going until long after it got dark. We had such a pleasant time together!
I'm sad to admit that I was pretty much a miserable failure as a photographer on this trip. I have no picture of Tim alone or of the two of us together. I could kick myself for not taking pictures of Tim and me, but my brain just wasn't on that wave length. We were just too busy talking, I guess! Having been roommates 45+ years ago, we're both such geezers now that a selfie of us would have probably looked something like the picture below, only with two men instead of two women:
My bus trip from Portland to Bend allowed me to see a vast array of topography and landscapes! In fact, on my whole trip from Oregon to South Carolina, the most surprising state to me was Oregon. I was blown away by all the variety in that one state alone! On the bus ride we went through deciduous forest, pine forest, mountains (some snow capped), desert with sage brush and juniper, gorges, and farm land. We passed the area where Smith Rock  is located. Climbers from all over the world go there to practice. Here's a picture out the bus window.
The next morning was David's final men's meeting at Antioch , the church he and Hattie had been an integral part for three years. I was glad I could be there for that meeting. It was evident that there was a lot of love for David and that his departure would be leaving a big hole.
One thing David wanted to do before moving back east was to hike again at Arches National Park  near Moab, Utah. I was totally game! After the men's meeting, we took off on our cross-country adventure, by way of Utah! Here's a picture of the mountains near Bend. If you look closely, you can see snow on several of them.
Here's a picture of the high desert in Oregon — the kind I also saw from the bus to Bend.
In Idaho David noticed that the needle of the gas gauge was down in the red zone, near empty! We were driving through an area where exits were, to use an overworked expression, few and far between. We passed several exits with no service stations and prayed with quiet urgency. Probably literally "on fumes" we pulled off at an exit that promised a gas station. The blue sign at the bottom of the exit sign said NEXT SERVICE 38 MILES. We had to laugh at the sign in the window of the only service station — a no-brand-name gas station.
Because we were towing a large U-Haul trailer, we soon learned that we were getting only 9 or 10 miles a gallon! David's Rainier has a 22 gallon tank. At that stop, David put in 20.95 gallons! The remaining gallon would not have taken us to the next exit with service, so we were thankful to find gas in "the middle of nowhere!"
While still in Idaho, I saw an interesting view out my window — more high desert with green swirly mountains and snow-capped mountains behind them.
We overnighted at a hotel in Provo, UT, and then the next morning we drove on to Arches . It was absolutely amazing! To me, just like the Grand Canyon, it screams Great Flood!
The first arch we hiked to is probably the most famous — the Delicate Arch. Not far into that hike we saw a sign to view some Ute petroglyphs.
Here is a picture of Delicate Arch as we approached it. You can see the beauty of the snow-capped mountains in the background. Stunning!
Here's a picture of two happy hikers.
The picture below is the one I currently have as the background on my cell phone:
That picture gives you a bit of perspective on the size of the arch. The two creatures under the arch are David and me.
On many of the hikes you are not actually walking on clear hiking trails. To aid hikers in knowing where to go, people have set up "cairns" along the way so that you know where to go next. Here's a picture of one of the many cairns.
After hiking to Delicate Arch, we drove further into the park to go on several longer hikes. We saw several more arches that each had their own interest. David is standing in the larger opening in the picture below.
I stood inside one arch that was almost cave-like and shot a picture from inside it. Much of the rock there is very red.
The following arch was one of the most impressive to me. It's called Landscape Arch. One section of it is fairly thin, and I had to wonder how long the arch will span that area. There have already been some "fallen arches" through the history of the park.
With the sun's being where it was, I couldn't get a very clear picture. Here's a nicer shot from a different angle that I found on Wikipedia.
The last arch at the end of that long hike is called Double-O Arch. Here's a shot I got of it. You have to look carefully to see the smaller O under the larger O.
On our hike back, we saw a place that we thought would make a nice picture. Imagine that you can hear me singing "the hills are alive with the sound of music" as I flail my arms in the picture below, because I was. 🙂
We hiked a total of about 8 miles that day, and I'm so glad David suggested our going there! By the time we left Arches, it was around dinner time and possibly a little late to be looking for a campsite. There is a road that runs along one side of the park where there are some campgrounds, none of which accept reservations. We literally got the last campsite in the last campground on that road. Jehovah Jireh! Here's a shot of our tent as we camped next to the Colorado River.
The next morning we left to visit friends in Denver. On the way there we had a mishap. On a steep downgrade David was going to shift to a lower gear to help save on the brakes. Instead he shifted into reverse for a split second. The engine immediately died as we pulled off onto the shoulder. He was able to get the car started, but it was clear that things were different from what they were before. We stopped in the next town of any size to see if we could get someone to look at the transmission.
They were so busy that they couldn't look at it until the next week. We did some searching for dealerships and finally decided it was smartest to head on to Denver where a dealership said they could look at the car if we got there before 5:00.
Here's a picture of the area near Vail, as we nervously climbed the steep grade at 25-30 m.p.h. on that leg of the trip.
We got to the dealership in plenty of time before its closing. They said the computer was giving them all kinds of codes on the transmission and even on the engine. David didn't want to put the several thousand dollars into the car to replace the transmission, and they offered him only $150 for trade-in. He could get more than that by just junking the car. (We know that because he checked with a place.)
We went on to house of my friends Steve and Karen and went out for dinner with them. (Once again, my abject failure as a photographer resulted in no picture of them to share. Sigh!) David did some web searches for prices of rental cars or of switching from a U-Haul trailer to a U-Haul truck and then junking his car. He has a brother-in-law who is a mechanic back here in Greenville, and so David sought his advice too. Finally David announced, "I say we should just press on as far as we can get with the car. I have AAA and they will rescue us if we need it." I said "great," and my friend Steve concurred, as did the brother-in-law mechanic. We had planned on having a short visit with Steve and Karen and then continuing on to Colby KS for the night, but our friends graciously invited us to spend the night at their house instead. And so very early the next morning after the delicious breakfast Steve prepared for us, we set off for St. Louis, where we planned to sleep that night at my aunt's house. To make it there by dinner time was going to be a grueling day, especially if the car couldn't go close to the speed limit.
Kansas was the longest, most nerve-wracking part of our trip. The landscape of fields and fields of who-knows-what got old really fast, even with the hundreds (maybe thousands?!) of windmills that we saw. But the worst part was the constant wind blowing north to south across the road as we headed east. The car and trailer just kept lurching again and again, making us wonder if it was the car or the wind, or both. Then, as if that weren't bad enough, we drove into a sand storm with at least a 15-car pile up in the westbound lanes. We were stopped for a while because of the low visibility, but we were very happy not to have all the drama the other folks were enduring! Here's a shot of the sand storm:
Sometime before or after the sandstorm (I don't remember which because Kansas was so harrowing!), we stopped for gas. After we were back on the road for about 20 minutes, David got a call saying he had dropped his wallet near the gas pump. Fortunately it was an honest couple who found it and waited till we got back there to hand the wallet to him personally. They apologized profusely for looking in his wallet deeply enough to see he had a AAA card. They were also members and called AAA to get a phone number for David. Once again, the Lord was watching out for us.
I have to admit I couldn't wait to say, "Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore!" (My apologies to any of you who love Kansas....) 🙂
Though we had hoped to get to my aunt's house in St. Louis for dinner and a mini family reunion with her kids and several of her grandkids, our travel day just kept getting longer and longer. I called my aunt to tell her she we probably wouldn't get to her house until about 10 or 11. But finally, after all the accumulated adventures, we were so tired that we stopped for the night in Kansas City, MO.
I called my aunt to tell her what we were doing and why. She had made mostaccioli, one of her specialties that she knows I love, for our dinner. She had made enough for us and her kids and grandkids. I told her we would cheerfully help her eat some of it for our breakfast the next day. She thought I was kidding, but I told her I was serious. Below is a picture of my aunt Janet and me. She's my mom's only remaining sibling and only 7 years older than I.
I would have loved to stay longer, but David and I were both eager to get home, especially not knowing how his car would behave. We actually got home that night only about 4 hours later than we had originally planned. Phew!
David and I had a great time together, and the trip, with all its hours of talking and of adventures, deepened our friendship.
And all of that in just one week! I am so glad I made the trip and that David didn't have to make the drive alone. By the way, David's car is still going! 😀
Many thanks to Tim, Steve, Karen, and Jan for their hospitality, and to David for making everything in this post possible!
"God never gives grace for the hypothetical." — a wise, anonymous individual
During this season of road construction, I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!