Sunrise as viewed from our home in the White Mountains
of eastern Arizona at 5:30 a.m. on Friday, October 2, 2015,
as we were loading the car to leave on vacation.
Our long-awaited California vacation finally started on Friday. I was awake at 3:45 that morning (after less than 3 hours of sleep) to get myself ready. At 4:15 I roused Mark, and then Dylan at 4:30, so they'd be ready to load the car when Sarah and Chris arrived at 5:00. Rather than taking both cars, we'd decided to ride together in Chris and Sarah's Jeep Liberty. It was a snug fit, but it worked. Better yet, less gas was required!
Sunrise less than 30 minutes later, as viewed from Safeway in Show Low.
These awesome sunrises brought to you by talented photographer Dylan!
Crossing the Colorado River into California on Interstate-40 at 11:20 a.m.
I'd planned to be on the road at 5:30, and although we did leave the house at that time, it was actually almost 6:00 by the time we stopped for a banking errand and finally hit the highway. It worked out fine, though, because we were soon back on track. My itinerary called for us to cross the border into California at 11:00, and we were only 20 minutes behind schedule at that point.
Crossing into California just south of the town Needles.
Dylan and Sarah at a fueling stop in Barstow, California.
The itinerary called for us to refuel in Barstow at 1:30 p.m. We arrived in Barstow at almost exactly 1:30! We made good time, which was important because I really wanted to make it to our first destination, Fresno, by about 6:00 that evening.
Me with my trusty camera in Barstow.
Mark and Chris at our Barstow stop.
Chris and Sarah's Jeep Liberty at the Boron rest stop.
Nine miles before we left Arizona, we'd stopped for gas and had a quick brunch of bagels and cream cheese, which I'd brought from home to save both time and money. By the time we came to a rest stop after Barstow at 2:15, we were ready for some lunch. On Thursday I'd made a big bowl of tuna salad (with chopped eggs, green onion, celery, and olives), which we packed into the ice chest, so we pulled out the 12-grain bread and made ourselves some yummy tuna sandwiches.
Dylan and Sarah making sandwiches at the rest stop.
Mark watches while Mary takes a picture of Dylan...
By the way, see my prescription sunglasses in the above photo? I left them somewhere in Fresno on Saturday. I have no idea where, but if you find them, please let me know!
...at the same time Dylan takes a picture of Mary!
We had nacho cheese tortilla chips with the sandwiches... Yuck, Dylan.
Sarah and Chris at the rest stop. I liked this oddly-formed Joshua tree.
The Piccadilly Inn hotel room shared by Mark, Dylan, and me.
Dylan was his parents' chaperon!
Ultimately, we did arrive in Fresno just a few minutes after 6:00 that evening. Despite the distance, we had no car problems, illness, or accidents during our 10-hour (not including stops) drive. Better yet, we managed to travel that entire distance in good spirits and companionable good humor, even though we were crammed like sardines into a relatively small space!
Sarah and Chris in the doorway of their hotel room across the hall.
Once we were all moved into our hotel rooms, where we'd be staying for the next 2 nights, we drove down the street a few blocks to have dinner at Carl's Jr. If you know me, you know that's my total favorite fast food restaurant.
Oddly enough, considering that our hotel was right across the street from the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport, the Carl's Jr. was entirely deserted, so we had the whole place to ourselves. It was about 7:00 when we got there, so you'd think it would have been filled with people. Other customers finally started coming in just as we were finishing up.
Chris, Mark, Dylan, and Sarah in the deserted Carl's Jr.
After dinner we went back to the hotel, where Mark and Chris both decided to shower and then crash in front of the TV in their respective rooms. Sarah and Dylan chose to join me for my first "relive-the-old-days" visit of our Fresno stay. (To be fair, Mark was also going to join us until I reminded him how bored he gets listening to "girl talk.")
Mary and Trudi, together again!
We drove just a couple of miles to the apartment of my old bestie, Trudi, whom I literally had not seen since we were in high school more than 40 years ago. We first met when my parents bought a house in March 1964, when I was nine, and our family moved in just 5 houses down the street from where Trudi lived with her parents and older sister Karen. Trudi is 7 months younger than me and thus was in 3rd grade while I was in 4th, but we were like soul sisters who shared everything for the next seven years (including our deep passion for our favorite band, The Monkees).
We lost touch after I graduated from high school in 1972 and moved to Southern California. Long distance communication was more challenging, more expensive, and less accessible in those days. In the early 2000s, I tried to find Trudi via classmates.com and then later on Facebook, but I didn't know her married name.
I was so excited when Trudi found me on Facebook about three years ago. It's been fun getting caught up and learning about her two adult children and her grandchildren. It was even more thrilling to be with her again in the flesh after all these years and to reminisce together about the good times we had as young girls. We spent more than 2 hours looking back and catching up. I hated for it to end.
Sarah and Dylan have their free breakfast at the hotel.
However, there were many more visits ahead to be enjoyed. On Saturday morning we enjoyed a free continental breakfast at Piccadilly Inn Express (including deliciously fresh-made waffles) before heading back out to re-experience the memories of my youth.
Sarah, Chris, Dylan, and Mark at breakfast.
When we left the hotel, we drove north on Cedar Avenue. On the left we passed McLane High School, where I attended my sophomore, junior, and senior years. It looked pretty good, although I hear it gets frequent visits from the police these days. About a mile further on the right was what used to be Sierra Jr. High, where I attended grades 7-9. It also looks good, but it's now a poly-tech high school campus. One more mile and then we made a right turn onto my old street, where I found our old house.
From kindergarten to fourth grade I lived in 6 different houses, but I only have vague memories of those homes. My first "real" home with solid memories, where I lived longest (8 years) and did most of my growing up, was the seventh, this house on Ashlan Avenue. Even as an adult, this house is featured in my dreams more than any other.
This is our house on Ashlan Ave. in Fresno, where I grew up from
March 1964 to May 1972 (age 9 to 17). Our house used to be
bright turquoise-blue. My dad put in that brick flowerbed border.
That neighborhood brought back lots of remembrances. The house on the left is where my boyfriend Carl lived (until he joined the Air Force after almost 4 years together and dumped me to marry someone else); on the right was the Borders' house. Jack Border yelled at my brothers if their bikes got too close to his lawn. Later, his sweet wife Marilyn had a surprise, late-in-life baby, Murray Ann, whom my sister Karla and I babysat.
On the Borders' other side lived Lloyd, who taught us to scale and clean fish and fascinated us with his missing big toe, which he claimed he'd chopped off with an ax. Next house belonged to the Maezes, whose dog Tina had lots of puppies, including our beloved terrier pup Belle. Then came the Johnsons' house. The youngest of their three sons, Steve, was my first boyfriend, in 5th and 6th grades, and today we're still friends on Facebook. And next-door to Steve's house, of course, was Trudi's home. Memories are so tender.
We also went by my old elementary school, Vinland (grades 4-6), and then we drove up the street adjacent to mine, Barton, where I used to ride my bike so often. The old dairy where we used to go pet the cows, and Jewel's Stable where I used to hang on the fence to watch the horses, are both gone. In their place is a derelict stadium that wasn't there before but has already been abandoned.
Uncle Leroy and Aunt Betty's house.
After fully exploring the old neighborhood, we drove on to the home of my Uncle Leroy and Aunt Betty. There were 5 children in my mom's family: Eva, Gene, Ralph, Leroy, and my mom, Jane, who was the youngest. Uncle Leroy is the last surviving sibling of the five. He is 85 and looks 20 years younger. (My mom would have turned 78 eight days ago.) Leroy is very spry and walks a mile every day, although he jokes that he must stop at McDonalds in order to have the strength to get back home. He claims--and I believe him--that he'll live to push 100, like his grandfather (my great-grandfather) Jacob Beierschmitt, who missed his 100th birthday by mere months.
October 3, 2015; Mary with Aunt Betty and Uncle Leroy.
The three and a half hours we spent visiting just flew by. It's so odd to think that the last time I saw Leroy and Betty (sometime in the 1980s), they were younger than I am now. And it's fun to get to know them now as fellow adults instead of the authority figures they were when I was growing up. Their senses of humor are delightful and their minds are still sharp as ever. It was a great visit!
Uncle Leroy cleans up the kitchen after lunch.
Aunt Betty and Uncle Leroy surprised us with a delicious lunch of burgundy beef over noodles, with buttered squash and green salad on the side. It was amazing, and it gave us an excuse to stay a bit longer!
Aunt Betty shared her hobby with us. She has some amazing creations
made from eggs, mostly ostrich eggs. They are gorgeous and I loved them!
This is just a small sampling. There were shelves and shelves of amazing designs.
Uncle Ernie and Aunt Alma's house.
It was really hard to say good-bye to Leroy and Betty, but another family get-together was starting a few miles away at 2:00, so we said our farewells a few minutes after two and headed west to the home of my Uncle Ernie and Aunt Alma.
Most of my dad's side of the family who still live in the Fresno area
(not many left) came to visit with us on Saturday afternoon.
Coincidentally, my dad and Kathy arrived in Fresno the day before we did. They were on their way to a bowling tournament in Pismo Beach, so they too stopped in Fresno to see everyone before they left for Pismo Beach on Sunday. That just made it even more fun to see everyone while we were there.
Mary with Uncle Ernie, Aunt Alma, and cousin Carol.
My dad is the youngest of eleven children, and his siblings are also dwindling in number. His sister LouDene lives in Texas, his sister Fern suffers from Alzheimer's and lives in northern California, and his brother Ernie is the only one still in Fresno. Ernie is the oldest remaining sibling. He'll be 92 in December and has health challenges of his own. It's so hard to see those we love suffering the effects of old age. As children, we think our elders will always be strong and capable and in charge.
With my cousin Bryan and his wife Peggy.
As great as it was to see everyone, I remember feeling very aware of all the people who weren't there. It's probably because the last time I was in Fresno was in June 1994, 21 years ago. My Grandma Butler was alive, Uncle Elmer and Aunt Jean, Uncle Maurice and Aunt Elda, Uncle Ralph and Aunt Fern...so many who were there then are gone now. And so many more have moved away. It's a reminder to me that we need to cherish the people who are with us now, because the future is always uncertain. I suppose having my son Jacob recently move to another state is also on my mind...
It also makes me grateful to know that families are forever.
With my cousins Sandra and Sherry (who are twins).
Sherry lives in the nearby town of Visalia. Sandra lives even farther away,
on the Colorado River in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
And so I really, really loved seeing everyone at this family gathering! Three hours together wasn't nearly long enough, but I'm so grateful that everyone came despite their other obligations. I will cherish our brief visit, and I'm already thinking that maybe we can pass through Fresno again in two or three years...
With my cousin Doug and his wife Melissa.
With my cousin Darla and her three daughters.
Darla just recently moved back to Fresno.
I had hoped to also be able to visit with my friend Jill, whom I've known since fourth grade, while we were in town. Ironically, on our first visit to Fresno in over 21 years, this happened to be the one weekend that Jill and her husband went out of town to celebrate their anniversary. Bad timing, I guess, but I hope we'll get to see each other sometime in the future.
Mary and Peggi, as if we'd never been apart!
After the family reunion, there was still one more important visit to look forward to: time with my long-time best friend, Peggi! Peggi and I have known each other since junior high. Back then, while I was hanging on the fence at Jewel's Stables, just watching, Peggi was actually riding Jewel's horses and cleaning out stables. But it wasn't until we graduated from high school and I moved to Southern California that we became the best of friends. That's when we discovered our mutual love for the Osmond brothers and began "stalking" our crushes. (Ultimately, we ended up meeting and spending time with the Osmond family, but that's a story for another day...)
Peggi with her horse, Tess.
Peggi joined us at the hotel around 5:45, and then we all headed over to where Peggi boards her horse. We're all horse lovers (although Sarah prefers not to ride anymore), so we were all anxious to meet Tess. We enjoyed the opportunity to visit in a relaxed atmosphere while we watched Tess savor her sweet alfalfa. We stayed until dark (which gave Dylan the chance to capture the lovely Fresno sunset, below).
Everyone got in on the act.
After we left the stables and returned to Piccadilly Inn, we all went out to the hotel's tiny pool and put our feet in the water while we talked awhile. Eventually, the guys had enough of the "girl talk" and went inside for the night, but we girls stayed out until after 10:30, solving the world's problems as wise women do the world over. If only the world would listen to us!
Peggi and I communicate often via Facebook and sometimes through phone calls and texts, but there's nothing quite the same as sitting together and sharing face to face. I miss that. I miss how we used to be there to counsel each other through the tough times. Again, it was very hard to say good-bye, because I truly do not know whether I will ever see these friends and family members in this life again.
Fresno sunset from Tess's stable.
Nonetheless, I'm very grateful that we had this weekend to reconnect with our loved ones. It's the love we find in this world that makes life worthwhile, and it's the best thing we'll carry with us when this life is over. I'm glad we had our weekend in Fresno.