She announced early in February that she was taking the children camping in Nevada where the sun shone warm and the sky vibrated blue and the sandstone grottos would shelter their tent in shimmering desert solitude and beauty. How wonderful and fun, I thought, but she announced this trip was for her and the children and I was not invited. So they went camping and I went to work those gray snowy foggy days in February. The still sandstone dunes radiated rainbow stripes of pinks and rusts and creams with occasional dripping springs and mystic hoodoos and ancient cryptic bat woman petroglyphs and piles of petrified wood and iron-spiked barrel cacti and mellow bighorn sheep and scurrying blue-throated lizards and deep trails of rust-red sand. These filled and enthused the returning children, who told me brightly all about their wonderful fun adventure, not knowing anything was the matter. It is February again, and they are there.
(Pictured above: Elephant Rock in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada)
The Snake River valley from the Sidewinder trail.
I left Mom and Dad for two days while I took my two youngest sons to visit their older brother John in Idaho for his 24th birthday. We rode the five-mile Sidewinder mountain bike trail, a fast flow trail aptly named, although Hyrum’s chain broke and he coasted and pumped the whole distance down. We explored a long cavernous lava tube in the sagebrush-covered Idaho wasteland. We ravaged the local pizza buffet. And we climbed at the gym where John works as a much-appreciated route-setter and climbing instructor. I have been watching my children climb in gyms and on real rock, and have belayed them all, for 15 years. But I myself have never climbed. Suddenly excited to conquer my fears, I pushed past the panic and scaled a 5.8 climb—my first climb ever—with my three sons cheering their old man on. We ended the trip with “Happy Birthday” and gifts and games of cards: Golf and SkyJo. On the windy drive back to Utah, a bike rack strap snapped, and the bikes hung precariously by one strap while I pulled off the highway. The getaway with my sons was delightful—I appreciated the break—and I was happy to come back to Mom’s and Dad’s house, which they insist is my house, too. “Welcome home!” Dad cheered when I walked through the door. “Tell us all about your trip!” Back to work today, I attended a law training, complete with a sandwich lunch. After stopping at REI for strong straps to re-strap my bike rack, I arrived home in time to help Dad rake deep red pear leaves out of the bushes and load them into the trash container. “I am so tired,” he lamented, “I need to sit down.” I invited him to come into the house for a lunch surprise. “OK, I am ready for lunch. Today must be Monday, because I always feel so tired after my Sunday ‘day of rest.’” Inside, I served Mom and Dad two beautiful sandwiches, one club and one turkey avocado, which they split and shared. The training organizer had invited me to take the leftover sandwiches for my parents. “We were going to drive to Arby’s,” Dad said. “But this is much better,” Mom chimed in. While they munched sandwiches and chips and sipped Coke (Diet for Dad and Zero for Mom), I re-strapped the bike rack, happy for their lunch enjoyment, and grateful I did not lose the bikes on the Idaho freeway.
The entrance to Civil Defense Caves lava tube.
The old man’s first climb.