The last morning was hectic. Breaking camp is necessary, but it’s never fun. You see how much dirt accumulated where you were sleeping, and each tasks reminds you that real life is coming quick. We ate cereal that morning, and there were dirty kids everywhere. We kept calling them to help us, and they would for a while before wandering off to their forest fort that they had claimed. We were sad to leave Mather Campground. It was a good temporary home for us.
As we got on the road, we realized that our air conditioning in the van was pooping out again. It might have been Winslow, Arizona that we stopped in, but we can’t remember. It was a drive-by-get-some-free-on-in-the-car stop, but it was the cutest little town. It was off of the historical Route 66, and there was an old car show and parade going on to celebrate. It made me think of the movie Cars. The Main Street there looked like a place you would want to stroll down and have a long breakfast somewhere. But, we left. We had more to see. We don’t just call it quits on these vacations. We go out with a bang. We squeeze the marrow out of the vacation. Okay, enough clichés.
We were headed to the Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert. It took all morning to get to the Petrified Forest. We ate in the car on the way. People were grouchy in my car. I was a little grouchy. We could feel the end coming. I was delighted that we made these last two stops. The grouchies left as soon as we started the little hike to see the petrified wood. There is petrified wood everywhere in that place. It seems to go on forever. As I looked over the land, I could picture the old way when there was forest and no desert. We went through the Science and Education Center there, and of course the kids had to become Junior Rangers there too. So, we had to complete the workbooks as we hiked outside.
After taking the trail to look at the petrified wood, we drove on to the next lookout. We had a plan to eat dinner at the Painted Desert Visitor Center restaurant, but we didn’t make it there in time. It was closed. We went on, and we came to the Painted Desert scenic areas. The sunset was beginning, and I cannot describe to you all the colors and the beauty displayed there. We took many photos, and we let the kids climb a mountain. They were pretty bazooka by this point in the trip, and their wildness surprised me. Marrow, people, marrow. They are their parent’s children. Is that correct grammar? I couldn’t believe they were climbing that steep mountain. I just stood there beside my mother-in-law, numb. They were yelling and helping each other. A few of the parents went up and helped them go higher. I just held Claire’s hand and watched. Claire climbed into her Nana’s arms, and I was left standing there at the bottom.
It was a fitting end for our journey to be in the warm coloring of the sun and desert. Perhaps as we get closer to Holy Week, we might find that it can be sad to leave the desert. It has a glory of its own, albeit harsh. It is a magical place, and I felt as though anything was possible there. Nothing could ever top it.
Well, except Cracker Barrel. When we finally left the Painted Desert for civilization and the road home, we were all very hungry. We had to drive for a few hours until we came to a Cracker Barrel restaurant. We barged in there, and they graciously sat all of us quickly. My little one was asleep, and I never did get her to wake up. All the other kids ate ravenously as did the adults. We tried to reminisce a bit, but we were pretty tired. We were happy and full as we hugged each other goodbye and climbed into our stinky cars. It was a memorable caravan to the canyons.