Friday, March 28, 2014

In Search of Sustenance

Friday, 21 Mar 2014: Our condo, second floor at right side.

After our fun at Kartchner Caverns, we headed back to our resort at Oro Valley. The drive is about an hour and 15 minutes, plus we had to stop for gas by now, so it was 5pm by the time we got checked into our condo.

The kids unload the cars and haul the luggage upstairs while I take pictures!

After getting all moved in, we went to the local Walmart to shop for the weekend. We have our favorite foods when we travel together. Needless to say, the healthy diet goes out the window until we get back home!

Danielle cheers Jacob on as he grills our chicken thighs.

Our favorite dinner is chicken thighs (perfectly grilled by Jacob, of course) and homemade potato salad. This is a tradition we started in Branson, Missouri, in July 2009. And that's the dinner we enjoyed on our first night at the resort on this trip.

Sarah takes on the daunting task of preparing the potato salad,
with some help from Danielle and jacob.

Dylan relaxed during the meal prep, but he drew dishes duty after dinner.

With dinner done, all four kids went down to the hot tub below our balcony.
Then they went to the pool at the clubhouse across the parking lot from our building,
where Jacob convinced Danielle to jump into the cold water with him.
She did it, but she was not amused! (I'm with her on this one!)
* [This is not the same version of the picture that I posted to Facebook.]

Saturday, March 22, 2014: The guard towers of the state prison in the distance.
Mark is not incarcerated in the high security facility, but we drove past it
on our way to the Whetstone Unit, where he currently lives. 

The next morning we started the day off with a big breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, and English muffins before heading to the state and federal prison complex in south Tucson. We followed the same route as we took toward Benson, but this drive ended in just 45 minutes with a right turn at Wilmot Road.
We had hoped that Danielle would be able to join us in visiting her future father-in-law, but we'd submitted her background-check-paperwork at the last minute and hadn't received word that she'd been approved yet, so she stayed alone at the condo with a good book. (She also cleaned the kitchen nicely!)
We enjoyed a pleasant visit with Mark, my ex-husband and father of my three children, from noon until 4:00. Our visit last March and this visit are the only visits he's had from anyone since he was jailed in December 2011, so he was thrilled to see us. Thankfully, he's on the down-slope. He's scheduled to be released in April 2015, just a year to go.
He was also thrilled to enjoy foods he hadn't seen since our last visit. Our lunches were obtained from the prison's vending machines, and I believe Mark drank about 3 Pepsis and ate 4 Snickers bars, along with a variety of other junk foods, purchased with the quarters we were allowed to bring inside in clear plastic bags. $30 each. Our bellies were all quite full by the time we left!

This is Mark's unit, Whetstone.

I used to tell Mark that I'd never bring his kids to see him if he ever ended up in prison (due to his addictions), but I see now that my attitude was not very Christlike. "I was in prison and ye came unto me." (Mark 25:36) Last year I dreaded the visit, but we know now that it's a sweet thing to bring hope to the hopeless and comfort to the comfortless. To watch the inmates with their families is to witness dozens of tender reunions.
Sadly, Mark told us he received Danielle's approval to visit only the day before we came to see him. He tried to contact us at home Friday afternoon, but we were already at Kartchner Caverns by that time so he couldn't reach us. We tried to convince the prison personnel to let us call her so she could join us, but our phones were in the car (not allowed inside) and we were told that we couldn't return at all if we walked out of the building. We were so disappointed!

Danielle, Jacob, Sarah, and Dylan on the stairs of our condo.
* [This is not the same version of the picture that I posted to Facebook.]

After returning from the prison, we took some pictures, rested, and otherwise waited a while for lunch to digest before going out to dinner. Jacob had decided he wanted to go out to Olive Garden during this trip, since there is no Olive Garden in our little mountain community. We are so deprived!

Mary and her children--Sarah, Jacob, and Dylan--on the stairs.

It was still light out when we arrived at Olive Garden, but we were soon informed that we were looking at an hour-long wait. Jacob wanted to hurry back to the resort to go swimming again, so we talked to a local who told us about other restaurants in the area.

Then we spotted this steakhouse and stopped in, but a quick look at the menu let us know it was too rich for our blood. I guess the expensive cars in the parking lot and fancy dress of those arriving should have clued us in. We moved on.

We finally ended up at Chili's, where we had a 20-minute wait. Ironically, I'm pretty sure we ended up eating about the same time we would have eaten if we'd stayed at Olive Garden!

Sarah looks none too thrilled at the 20-minute wait.

Dylan kept trying to avoid my camera.

He finally gave up and joined Danielle and Jacob for the wait.

We asked the waitress to take our picture, but she got her finger on the first try.

At last, we were served a delicious meal: Mexican for Sarah and me; burgers for Jacob and Danielle; and a half-rack of ribs for Dylan. Worth the wait!

The second try was better, except Jacob closed his eyes!
We stopped at Safeway on our way back, to get alfalfa sprouts for Sunday's lunch. And Jacob wanted to buy stuff to make homemade Blizzards for dessert. Thus it was almost 9:30 by the time we got to the resort. But they made it to the pool, and even got an extra half-hour in before the pool closed for the night.
At the end of the day, it seemed like we'd spent the entire day pursuing the next meal, and I was uncomfortably stuffed. Sometimes vacations are like that!

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