With our bicycle and camping gear safely off to Florida, by FedEx truck (arranged by BikeFlights), we crammed the remaining gear (helmets, front panniers, and water bottles) into a duffel, along with baby and graduation gifts (quilts and hand-wovens), and stuffed our backpacks with our “street” clothes. At the end of two busy days getting our new hall windows installed and the yard cleaned up for spring, our son picked us up for an overnight at his house in Olympia. The next morning, our daughter-in-law and grandsons drove us to SEA-TAC and we were off on the first leg of our adventure.
Arriving in Albuquerque, we encountered our first major hurdle to septuagenarian high adventure: we were assigned a rental car with keyless ignition. After fumbling with various attempts to decipher the not-so-helpful hieroglyphics on the panel display, without success, in the desert heat, I finally, at the prodding of my overheated stoker, shuffled to the attendants kiosk and inquired as to where to insert the crank to turn over the engine on this horseless carriage.
Hieroglyphics explained, we were rewarded with the muted rumble of a surprisingly efficient internal combustion engine (yielding an average MPG almost as high as our new hybrid), and we were off to Santa Fe for a fun weekend visiting our granddaughter and the five great-grandchildren still living at home. Our travels have become more convoluted as the family matures and scatters: retirement is necessary to have enough time to see everyone. We also did get to take in, inadvertently, the Palm Sunday parade around the Plaza in Santa Fe, during our morning coffee run.
We headed south across the desert, bypassing the Monday morning traffic in Albuquerque for the quiet rural towns of Moriarty and Mountainair, re-joining the Interstate just north of Socorro, and leaving it again south of Truth or Consequences to travel the old road through Hatch and down the Rio Grande to Las Cruces. Thanks to our youngest daughter, who arranged an impromptu family reunion at her new (to them) house, we saw most of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren Monday evening and made arrangements to visit more later in the week, along with those who couldn’t make it.
With the last of the Las Cruces family members imposed upon and gifts delivered, including hand-woven baby blankets for our first great-great grandchild, due in August, and our latest great-grandchild (the 11th), born last month, we headed south to El Paso, Texas to visit our youngest granddaughter (27, but who has 2 brothers and 6 cousins younger) and youngest son (43, and youngest of 7 children as well), who live on opposite sides of the sprawling border city but cross paths each morning on the way to their respective workplaces. They met us in the middle for an afternoon exploring the downtown cultural offerings, after which we checked out her new house and then into the sunset to our son’s house.
In the morning, we drove into the sunrise to the airport, where we again had to ask directions to the well-hidden return area for our rental car (Payless recently opened an agency at ELP, and was using the Avis facilities, something the agent at ABQ failed to tell us). After coffee at Starbucks, which occupies most of which was the original terminal when I first arrived in El Paso 49 years ago, we whisked through security relatively painlessly and were on our way to the next phase of our adventure. The rest of the children and grandchildren are in Wisconsin and Iowa, and we will have to wait to see them at the end of our bicycle expedition, more than 100 days from now, if all goes well. Oh, one more prodigal son, in Roswell, but too far off the path to visit this time, so we have yet another road trip to look forward to next year.
After surviving the usual plane change at DFW, which always involves the longest possible inter-terminal train ride, we enjoyed an afternoon tour of the lower Mississippi and New Orleans from FL290, detouring around the line of thunderstorms that are sweeping the East Coast this time of year (something not to look forward to on a bicycle). Our niece was waiting at the airport (MCO–we think it stands for “Mickey’s Castle – Orlando,” in honor of the major industry here, the four Disney theme parks), soon reuniting us with our ground transport, still in its shipping cases.
Saturday, we decompressed a bit from our time-zone hopping with a trip to Disney Springs, my first ever visit to one of the lands of the Mouse, having been taught from an early age (well, teenage, when the first one opened) that the Disney parks weren’t for us ordinary folk. Surprisingly, it looked like everywhere else, just all crammed together in a small space, with restaurants and shops intermingled with movie merchandise stores and movie-themed entertainment. And lots and lots of people. I’m sure we’ll see more later in the week, as our Orlando relatives all are in the “biz,” from restaurateuring to designing and overseeing the manufacture of the branded merchandise sold at the parks. Getting a tour of the shops with an “insider” view of the process of getting quality products that showcase and respect the branding was fascinating–not unlike the technical and business processes for creating software and computers, with which I am familiar. Indeed, one of my software design courses in grad school used movie-making as a model for the process.
The rest of this week will be spent in visiting with family, putting the bicycle together, arranging for Warm Showers hosts and/or campgrounds and motels to the north, and planning around predicted weather events, as well as getting used to the heat and humidity.