Ever wonder how long being trapped in a car with your immediate family takes to officially push you over the edge?
The answer is one week.
It's day eight, and I want a refund. Okay, okay -- it's not as bad as all that. But today wasn't all Kumbayah and campfires.
Mom keeps losing things. Her cell phone case ... her camera battery ... and today, her keys. She says her mind is next, though I think that happened sooner than she expected. I grab Grandma's keys and we're pulling onto the highway when Mom hands me the keys she's just found. I just look at her and we both start laughing.
She handed them to me so I could start the car I was already driving.
We stop at Walmart for a potty break and to pick up a tripod for me and camera batteries for Mom. I go in, go to the bathroom, pick up the tripod, grab some socks and underwear (yeah, I know, Walmart underwear. I'm desperate. We haven't done laundry in a few days.) I get back to the car, change into hiking clothes and shoes for our next destination -- Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument -- and move the car in front of Walmart to pick up the girls. Then I wait.
I call Mom several times ... no answer. Grandma comes out. I go in and have Mom paged ... no answer. I walk around the store and finally find her at the camera counter. She has a new shirt tucked under her arm, which I know is the reason for the delay. Our tiny pit stop morphed into a 30 plus minute Walmart extravaganza. And I hate Walmart. There is always somebody beating their kid there. The kid is crying because Mom or Dad won't give them what they want, so said parent spanks them to get them to shut up. They cry harder.
Really ... what did you expect?
Back on the road, we're past Silver City when we realize the path to Gila is NOT paved with good intentions. The road SUCKS. It's very winding and there is little room for error -- meaning one false move and we're Thelma and Louise, with Grandma in the backseat. I'm tired, and nobody is talking much. When anyone does pipe up, it's to give me flack for my driving. "You should be using overdrive and downshifting." When I do, the car's engine revs so hard I'm afraid it will keel over and die. "There is such an incline you shouldn't have to use the gas." So I stop accelerating and we coast to a stop. I look over and I can tell Mom is trying not to laugh.
But then she stops talking all together. I'm not sure what's wrong, but her vow of silence is madenning. She stays in the car as Grandma and I head to the cliffs.
Gram is a total trooper.
This is rough terrain, and you wouldn't guess this woman is 86 years old. It's slow going, but not many women her age would have even attempted it. Tough old broad. She does stop before the climb gets too steep, as I continue the hike up to the dwellings. It's absolutely amazing. The ceiling is still stained black from the fires of the Mogollon (mag-gee-yohn) people that lived here about 800 years ago. Park Ranger Bill Simington gives a fabulous tour, explaining what each room was likely used for.
It's raining on the drive back down, which makes the road even more trecherous. We get close to the bottom and I get another comment. I pull over the car and get out. I consider walking to the nearest airport, then decide that someone else can drive for a while. I fall asleep for about 20 minutes, then it's nitpicking about booking the hotel for Tombstone.
Somehow, a stop to get gas at this station touting "The Thing" pulls us all back together. We pay a buck each to see this roadside wonder. There are a few dusty exhibits in pole barn structures looping around the building, and in the final one ... the main event. I'll let you determine how fabulous "The Thing" is for yourself. Then we have ice cream at Dairy Queen. I'm not sure which is the catalyst, but the ice is broken when we get back in the car.
Destination ... TOMBSTONE.
But you'll have to wait for that adventure tomorrow.