We're still reeling from the results of our latest trip--mainly to San Diego, but with stops in Las Vegas and jaunts to Chula Vista and Mexico. The most stunning result was our loss of a daughter--that is, as a resident in Provo. She (Julie) now lives in Henderson, Nevada. For the story, see the post below ("Left in Las Vegas") and especially Julie's version on her own blog, http://myartisfashion.blogspot.com/2007_06_01_archive.html.
But a lot of other interesting things happened too, a brief account of which appears here. I invite elaboration in the form of comments from those who took part in the trip. Comments from anyone else are welcome as well.
The brief account: On Saturday, May 26, about 9:40am, we (Margaret, Julie, Misha, and I) left Provo and headed south on I-15. Our destination was San Diego, where we would be staying with my old roommate Steve Egbert and his wife Paula (and son Chris). We stopped in Las Vegas, where my cousin Danny had fixed lunch for us, then headed off again and arrived about 9:30 California time at the Egberts'.
Sunday, May 27--special Church events: One reason for our trip was that Margaret had been invited to speak at two special events in the area, a sacrament meeting held in connection with a Singles' Conference and a fireside for a multi-ethnic group. Margaret and I both spoke at the sacrament meeting, where Margaret had everyone in stitches as she told the story of our courtship. At the fireside, which was almost entirely in Spanish, I bore my testimony and Margaret talked about black pioneers and about Pablo and Daniel Choc of Guatemala. Our host at both events was Brother Tony Boyd, a wonderful African-American man with a truly remarkable conversion story.
Monday, May 28--Memorial Day: The Egberts took us to the Mormon Battalion Visitors Center in "old town" San Diego and to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery (near Cabrillo National Monument), with thousands of white crosses, and a nearby lighthouse and tidal pools. Then we went to lunch at Jose's in La Jolla and saw La Jolla Cove and a nearby beach covered with seals, then went to La Jolla beach, where Misha did some boogie boarding.
Tuesday, May 29--MEXICO!: We had originally been thinking of spending a couple of days in Mexico and getting to the real Mexico, which, for Margaret and me, means beyond Ensenada. Our kids were nervous, though, and so were we, just a bit. So we decided on a one-day trip. We drove past Tijuana, stopped at a village along the coast named Puerta Nueva and ate a lobster lunch, then stopped at a Wal-Mart (!) in Ensenada for bathrooms and ice cream. (And there was a Home Depot next to the Wal-Mart.) Then on to our favorite stop of the trip, La Bufadora--a blow hole along the coast that sprays water into the air. The walkway to the blow hole is lined with shops--Margaret and I don't remember them being there 20 years ago when we last visited. But we got some good buys on Yucatec hammocks and a plant holder made of sea shells. We drove back to Ensenada for dinner, but it took us about an hour to find a suitable place, by which time tempers were frayed. But I had some great seafood soup! As we headed home, it got dark sooner that I had anticipated, I got confused making lane changes near Tijuana and ended up hitting into a curb and damaging the plastic wheel and engine covers under the van. We drove through Tijuana and finally found our way across the border. One advantage of being there a bit late is that there was virtually no line, and we were through in less than 15 minutes.
Wednesday, May 30--back in San Diego: Actually we had gotten back the night before, not all that late really (maybe 10:15). Wednesday (after I had the van's alignment checked and went to an AutoZone to see what the "engine maintenance" light was all about) we headed to La Jolla again and spent the afternoon at La Jolla Cove, a beautiful spot where we did some snorkeling in the cold water and saw lots of interesting fish and where Misha ended up swimming with a seal. The seal came to shore for a few minutes (with the lifeguard telling everyone to stay away from it) and then headed off again. Julie and I did some picnic shopping at a grocery store, we ate at a nearby park, and then we headed back to the Egberts'.
Thursday, May 31--on to Las Vegas: About 12:30 we left the Egberts' and got on I-15 going north. After a stop in San Bernardino to see one of Julie's friends, we continued to Las Vegas and arrived in Henderson (right next to Las Vegas proper--is that an oxymoron?) JUST as auditions were beginning for the Saints Voices United choir run by Gladys Knight. Julie had wanted to try out but, as she says on her own blog (Myartisfashion), had resigned herself to the possibility of not being able to. We got her there a bit late, since we had to wander around to find the right chapel. She wanted to go in and do everything on her own. So we left her there and went with my cousin Danny to the Green Valley Ranch Casino buffet (that could make an amazing story of its own--think international fare and Roman decadence).
Later that evening, around 9 or so, Julie called and told us she had been accepted into the choir. Only problem: three mandatory rehearsals the following three days, and members of the choir have to live within two hours' driving time. I picked Julie up; then we went as a family to the strip to see the fountains of the Bellagio; but Julie was hungry, and Margaret and I were trying to figure out how the heck we were going to deal with Julie's being in the choir. We had parked in Caesar's Palace parking and then trecked much longer than we thought it would take to get to the Bellagio fountains, and a show had just ended when we got there. Without going into details, I'll just say that Margaret (without a cell phone) ended up leaving the rest of us, and we weren't sure where she was headed. We headed off trying to find her, got lost in Caesar's Palace for about an hour, and then finally found her in the casino area. She had been lost there too and had felt assaulted by the sounds, images, and atmosphere of that hellish place. We now think of the experience as a powerful parable: evil is real; it tries to draw you in and trap you and then won't let you go; you seem to be going in circles, bound forever in its chains, until finally (with desperate effort and pleas for help) you find the exit.
Anyway, we finally found the exit to parking, got very lost on our way back to Henderson (got some nice help along the way), and arrived at my cousin's place very, very late.
Friday, June 1--Miracles: Friday morning things started looking brighter. Julie and I did some shopping; I got phone numbers, including to the LDS Institute of Religion in Las Vegas. Margaret called there, asked if they had listings of girls needing roommates, and was given three phone numbers near the chapel in Henderson used by Gladys Knight's choir. Margaret caught the owner of the best (in price and location) of the three places during a narrow window of opportunity, and we started making arrangements to see the place. But first, we had lunch at Red Lobster in Henderson with the Waites. There's another story. They are the parents of the missionary Julie is writing to, the one we met in Guatemala last summer. And yes, they live in Las Vegas. Now, they've sort of adopted her; later, she even stayed at their place a couple of days. They are delightful people--if I'm remembering correctly, their names are Lane and Torrie.
After lunch, we checked out Julie's prospective housing. It's actually a house, a very nice one in a nice residential neighborhood. Julie has several roommates (originally four, now two), all Latter-day Saints and all, I think, college graduates. Julie signed a contract and got a key, and by early evening we had her settled there. Then we left--left our daughter in Nevada--and headed back to Utah. We arrived about 1 a.m. Saturday morning.
A few reflections: Honestly, even though it seemed crazy to leave Julie in Nevada, it felt right. Things worked out remarkably (though we're still dealing with a lot of the practical details). We're confident this will be a wonderful experience for her. And as for us, it's kind of fun having Misha to ourselves. He and Julie used to hang out a lot, so now he has to hang out with Mom and Dad. We've got Rob at home too, and that's nice. We occasionally even see him. As for this major change, with Julie on her own, as I've told several people, we couldn't have done better if we'd been planning it for a month. It still surprises me, given my rational and pragmatic tendencies, how amazingly and quickly things can sometimes work out, when they're supposed to.
One more thing: The Egberts were incredibly hospitable and friendly. I wish we could spend a week with them every month or two. Besides feeding us, providing lodging, and spending time with us (and providing snorkeling gear), they also introduced us to a new favorite, which we now buy regularly at Costco: Newman's Own Concord Grape Juice. That sweet beverage brings back sweet memories.
Hope you had fun learning of our trip or--if you're a skimmer--looking at the pictures. Check in on comments for further interesting details.