As I mentioned a few days ago I’ve been helping get my father in law’s house wheelchair ready so he can can come home from the rehab facility. When she who must be obeyed asked if I’d like to up to Northern Michigan, the upper peninsula to be exact (Yes, that makes my wife a yooper) to help on this project I assumed it would be a two or three day trip. Four at the outside. One week later I’m still here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, much. Building things with your hands can be fun and rewarding. It’s pretty satisfying finishing a job, stepping back and saying “I did that” It’s also been fun working with my wife’s family (also a bunch of Finnish Yoopers). It’s been sort of like a Amish barn raising where the men do all the work and the women make the food and clean up the construction mess after. Except that instead of cooking and cleaning they went shopping for cute things to put in the new bathroom and found lots of other projects for us men to do that had nothing to do with the original mission.
The other big difference between the Yoopers and the Amish is that at he end of the day instead of having dinner and bible study by candlelight, us men, us manly men, head to the sauna for beers and smart talk. The Yoopers are serious about their saunas. I learned that when Cathy invited me up to the Great White North to meet her parents for the first time. It was a normal kind of “meet the parents” weekend. It started out with a pre-dawn country breakfast followed by a long walk deep into the woods with Cathy’s father, brother, and uncle, all of them carrying guns. Hmmm. OK, to be fair, I was armed too because we were deer hunting but it’s still unnerving to have the father of the girl you’re sleeping with walking behind you with a loaded rifle. Accidents happen, you know? But no one died that day, including deer, and afterwards I was invited to join the guys for an evening sauna. I grabbed my swim suit and walked into the dressing room where the guys were undressing. It was then that I noticed that I was the only one who’d brought anything to wear in the sauna. Great. But immediately felt better when one of the naked men handed me two beers for to help with the bonding. Yep, guns, beer, and sweaty naked guys, a perfect way to get to know your future father in law.
Sorry for not giving you all new riveting survival post but I’ve been helping two of my brother in laws and a nephew remodel my father in laws house in order to make it wheel chair accessible. Cathy’s father has had some health issues and is currently in a rehab facility (NOT A NURSING HOME!) and in order to bring him home we need to completely remodel a bedroom, bathroom and install an electric chair for getting him up a small set of stairs. The bathroom has been the biggest challenge. we had to tear down and move a wall, move both the sink and toilet, re-wire the entire room and install new flooring. New flooring through out the entire house actually. I’ve always been kind of handy (kind of) but this is the biggest project I’ve ever taken on. It’s involved plumbing (moving the toilet wasn’t fun) electrical work, drywalling, and all kinds of stuff. It’s a good thing that my three “helpers” are actually good at this sort of thing, I mostly just stand around waiting for someone to tell me what to do. But it’s still satisfying working with your hands and creating something real. It’s also made me realize something about careers and life choices. I was born to be a pilot.
Well that was a long one! (That’s what she said) We finally dragged our sorry numb rear ends back to Wisconsin and man are my arms tired! Bruddddmp! OK, that doesn’t work when you drive but you get the idea. Final tally: 15 days, 11 States, 7 National parks, 8 beers (estimated) 3 books on tape, (Fire Starter, Deloris Claiborne and Cujo, we were on a Stephen King bender), 4914 miles driven, 87 hours on the road. It was an amazing trip made better by the fact that we had no real destination or time table, just a vague goal of camping in Death Valley and skiing in Utah (both accomplished) I’d always wanted to just hit he road, drive as long as I wanted each day with no pressure to push it, take detours based on recommendations from the locals, and just enjoy the freedom of the road.
And now for the event you’ve all been waiting for THE PARKIES! Yes, I know you haven’t been waiting for this at all but I have so there you go. The PARKIES is the once in a lifetime, fake awards I made up to honor the best National Park Cathy and I visited on our road trip, it was a long drive through Nebraska and I was bored. So, without further ado and in no particular order the nominees are:
Arches National Park
And the winner is…………………………….ZION NATIONAL PARK!!!!!!!!!!
Tank you all for all for attending. It’s been a great event despite the protesters protesting the fact that no national parks east of the Mississippi were nominated. The #flatparksmatter movement has vowed to boycott next year’s awards show as well unless the nomination process is more diverse. I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Back in radio contact with the latest trip report. After leaving Sin City Team Road trip headed west into the Valley Of Death. (Into the Valley Of Death rode the three hundred?) Playing the role of boring tourists from wisconsin we first hit the Devil’s golf course, Bad Water, Devil’s corn Field, and Stove Pipe Wells. These minor distractions were minorly? distracting but were not, much to Cathy’s dismay, interesting enough to keep me from taking our, not at all 4×4, Ford Edge 12 miles up a rough dirt road into Marble Canyon to do what I’ve been trying to do for the last 10 years. Winter camp overnight in Death Valley.
Why has it taken me ten years to accomplish this seemingly minor goal you might ask? Because every year since the kids were too old to go to Disney World on Spring Break I’ve been trying to find someplace else warm to take the family. Someplace that you can drive to. Why someplace that you can drive to? Because it would be cheap. And I’m a Dad. Hence cheap. But, as you can imagine, trying to sell the wonderful wonders of camping in the beautiful barren wonderfully wonderful desert wasteland, excitingly called Death Valley, was a tough sell to two teenagers, and a not really into camping wife. (kind of got lost there) So I was forced part with many of my hard earned shekels (I’m Irish and that’s almost like being Scottish) and take the family to warn tropical islands until they had the good sense to move out and leave poor Cathy alone with me and my crazy ideas of what’s fun.
I drove our poor city dwelling not Jeep as far into the rough rocky canyon as I dared, and as far as Cathy would let me, (the high clearance of my Suburban would have definitely come in handy) found a suitable site for which to make camp and set up my trusty Kelty tent on a big flat rock. After that I cooked us up two, surprisingly good tasting, dehydrated meals opened a good box of red wine and enjoyed the total silence you can only find in the high desert. Finally made it!!
The next morning we got up, brewed some coffee, climbed small mountain, had some oatmeal then packed up camp. Cathy was surprised that she hadn’t frozen in the night, fallen down a abandoned mine shaft, or been eaten by bears but she wasn’t taking any chances. While we were packing up the car I heard a roaring sound that is unmistakeable. FIGHTERS! Looking up I was treated to the sight of three F-16s hauling the mail and dragging thick contrails behind them. This was the start of a fantastic day of jet watching. It was pretty amazing but it did make appreciating the sights of Death Valley difficult because every time Cathy was pointing out some natural wonder to me I was staring at the sky watching two F-15s claw at each other or a giant fur ball being painted in the sky as the fighters looped and dove over the desert.
I did manage to drive the 28 mile Titus? Canyon road that took us through some pretty rough roads, past two ghost towns, abandoned mines, and finally a tight squeeze before spitting us out.
After that it was time to beat feet and head east for home, you can’t stay on vacation forever after all. Plus we had about 30 some hours of driving to look forward to. I hope we brought enough books on tape.
I’d love to give you all a complete report of our wild, crazy, decadent, out of control, party till you puke, up all night, mad cap, wild, (Oops, I said wild already) zany, call the cop, hock your wedding, night in Las Vegas but you know the whole what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas thing. It’s a state law I think. I will tell you that I was up over 375 at one point and instead of listening to my wife, who told me to cash out at that point, continued to bet and lost the whole shooting patch plus the 120 I started with. OK, I was playing the nickle slots at the time but losing $6.00 still hurt. Guess I’ll have to drink cheap beer for the rest of the trip…….Or not. Next stop, Death Valley.