The Desert, Bulls, and Mos Eisley

Okay, to recap: We left home on three days’ notice with a car full of stuff and a need to get across the country in pretty good time.

Tuesday: We made it through the rest of Missouri and much of Oklahoma, and did our now-customary mall walkthrough to put Maddy to sleep in OKC. We went a little past the city before stopping for the night, a little earlier than planned. In retrospect, I had the very mildest end of a stomach bug that was working its way through our Indiana friends. At the time, though, I just felt a little off and did. not. want to drive anymore, so we stopped.

The next day, I didn’t eat anything all day but thought it was just road-weariness. We stopped at the Top of Texas Catholic Superstore (which was really just a nice bookstore right off the freeway), and then I slept my way through the rest of Texas and a fair bit of New Mexico.


Maddy has no filter between brain and face. God love her.

The highlight of our trip – or at least the story we keep retelling – came at an exit in New Mexico. Far from any real civilization, Maddy made it know that she wanted to stop, so we took the next exit that promised gas. Picture the dustiest, hottest, most desolate place you can imagine. That’s where we were. We pulled up to the only building for miles, and our dialogue went something like this:

Me: Well, the sign said “gas,” but I don’t see any pumps…

Johnny: Is that it? No; those haven’t been used for years.

Me (reading the sign): The 203 Club? This isn’t a gas station.

Johnny: What on earth is their logo?

Me: Umm, I think it’s a naked woman. YEP, that’s a butt.

It was only as we had pulled away from this house of ill repute that Johnny said, “Hey, did you see the bull they had outside?” Yes, for whatever reason, there was a live bull in a pen. One of the great regrets of my life will be not capturing a photo of it.

We (by which I mean, Johnny) had dinner in Gallup, and then we made it all the way to lovely (no, really) Holbrook, Arizona for our last night on the road.

Waking up in the mountains with a field of wildflowers outside our room. Not bad.


Our last day involved a steep descent from 7400 feet down to 34 feet, which made for a some fun driving. Up where we started, there were pine trees, meadows, and medians full of some yellow flower. It was incredibly pretty. Then we wound down through this:


We drove past the signs for the Grand Canyon and very briefly entertained the idea of making a side trip, but ultimately decided not to. Next time. And then, with a glimpse of the Colorado River and a perfunctory “Welcome to California” sign, we were in for hours and hours of this:


I have to say, the Mojave Desert was stunning in how much nothing there is. It seriously feels like it goes on forever. So much nothing. Next time you think of California as populous, consider that after entering the state, you have to drive four hours before coming to a town of any size. It’s awe-inspiringly desolate.

Under “Things I Wish I Had Photographed” comes the tale of a street sweeper we saw brushing down the shoulder in the absolute middle of nowhere. I like to imagine that some lazy bum begged his DOT Commissioner father-in-law for a job, and was assigned to the Herculean Labor of sweeping up the desert.

Eventually, we came back to civilization, a term that I use more loosely now. Johnny is convinced that George Lucas used the city of Barstow as his inspiration for Mos Eisley, and I have to say, it’s hard to disagree with him.

One of these has an In-N-Out and a community college. The other is in California.

A little later, we drove past a real Spaceport (which looks really fun, except for being hours from anything). We drove through one last stretch of mountains, these littered with thousands of half-working windmills, and then made a steep descent in the valley, and suddenly everything was green and there were produce stands everywhere. Five days and 3200 miles later, Johnny was back to the one place on earth where he doesn’t need a map to get around, and life was very good.

(…until 4 hours after we got home, when he succumbed to the Stomach Bug with a Vengeance and got violently sick. But at least his mom was there to take care of him.)




That time we kinda moved across the country with three days’ notice

Okay, so…once upon a time…no, that'll take too long.

In a nutshell: Johnny had long had a dream – solidified by ten long winters – of moving home to California, but it was always in the category of “Maybe…someday…when we're ready.” Then, he got a call from a friend who works for a statewide non-profit, wondering if he wanted to come out and work there on a temporary-but-hopefully-permanent-basis. It was basically his dream job, working with someone he already knew he liked, and in his beloved homeland. The catch: he found out about it on a Wednesday, and would need to start the Monday after next (so, ten days' notice). Throw in a cross-country drive with a baby, and we realized that we would need to leave Saturday morning. Commence crazy packing, a massive to-do list, some phone calls to arrange things, last-minute shots for the baby, and quick last-minute goodbyes (and a little drinking).

The name seemed fitting, somehow.

Three days later, the oil was changed, the car was packed, and we were as ready as we were going to be. Our favorite doughnut shop opens at 3AM, so we figured we'd just leave whenever Maddy woke up anytime after that (PRIORITIES, okay?).

Doughnuts in hand and cauldron of coffee in cup holder, it was Next Stop, South Bend! Maddy was a super traveller, and we didn't have to make a major stop until lunchtime in Buffalo (where we tired her out by window-shopping our way around a nice mall. Looking good, Anthro.). All things considered, we made it to South Bend in very good time – about 17 hours for what is, on paper, a 12-hour drive. Johnny made it through the last few hours by dreaming of making it there in time to order takeout from the world's best Chinese restaurant. We made it with 20 minutes to spare, and it was just as good as we had remembered.

Sunday was our day to relax and hang out with friends, some of whom we hadn't seen since our wedding. We went to Mass at the church where we got married, then to brunch, and then walked around campus. It was a beautiful day, so Maddy got to see all the sights (and her parents got to grumble about all the things that had changed).

Christmas card spoiler alert.

Well, guess it's a tradition now.

We hosted dinner that night and had a grand old time catching up with friends (and catching viruses…but that will come later). Monday morning, we took a last little tour of campus (complete with the obligatory guard who refused to let us park on campus, even with a sleeping baby and promises of just a quick stop). Then we were on our way, past Chicago and on to Route 66.

Coming up next: We journey into places never before seen (by me, anyway). Things get weird.