Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In Which the Trip is Part of the Destination

The view I get to enjoy for the next few days, early morning sun rising.

    We've spent the last week-and-a-half visiting family and friends in California and Arizona. I plan to post some pictures from our journey soon. It's been wonderful, but also a bit crazy and very tiring! I've hardly had an extra moment, and I was finally inspired to write last night, after a very long day driving from the Phoenix area to where we're settled for the next few days in Baja, Mexico. 

    My childhood was full of long journeys, of five kids packed in the back of the brown station wagon, of three days driving to get from our home in Alberta to southern California and Baja, where my Dad's family lived. Yesterday reminded me of one of those days, only now I'm in the front seat, the mom's seat, trying to help everyone stay happy, well fed, and sane. (Which is really, really challenging at times.) There was a saying that was often thrown around in my family, something along the lines of "the journey is part of the trip". I couldn't quite remember how it went, but I'd been thinking of it after the 11 hour drive that finally brought us to our destination last night. This morning I picked up a memoir written by my great grandfather, known to us as Poppa Tom. On the front cover is written "That is a pleasant journey in which the trip is part of the destination" (Dr. Henry Van Dyke) I recognized that sentiment as it had been passed on to us, and felt it keenly yesterday, that getting here was part of the experience, and if we're to travel, we must learn to embrace the journey. 

    Here is an account of yesterday's travels, as written down by my very tired self last night: 

    We are safe and sound at Su Casa. I forgot how much I love this place, and can't wait to look out over the ocean in the daylight! It was a long and challenging day- 11 hours after we left Apache Junction we finally arrived here. Our first stop was Phoenix, where Erik tried to sort out the rental/insurance issue and was basically told that the company's insurance underwriter wouldn't cover minivans. But, that we could buy our own insurance from a third party; we just wouldn't have any coverage from them. So we chose to do that. (This after checking and double checking that we would be able to take the van into Mexico, and even being told we could buy the insurance from them!) While Erik went in and talked with the manager of the rental company I fed the kids breakfast in the van. 

    We drove southwest from Phoenix, through barren looking deserts, fields of what appeared to be cotton, and lots of stinky feedlots full of cattle. We crossed the border into California and set our clocks back an hour. Raphael seems to need to stop and pee about every thirty minutes; I'm sure it's a boredom tactic, but we indulge him. I mean, what boy doesn't love to pee on the side of the road! Our kids are learning good life skills like how to squat and "go" in the absence of a toilet. Stuff you just can't get from a textbook. Our next big stop was Calexico, just north of the border adjacent to Mexicali. There we found a park and let the kids play and ate our lunch. The sun felt hot and everyone enjoyed being out of the van for a while! Just a few blocks farther we stopped to purchase our infamous Mexican insurance. That done, we were free to cross the border. We went back and forth about whether to cross there or further west, but decided there was no good reason to wait. We fueled up- gas, and popsicles for the road. I was happy to be greeted by the cashier with a friendly "Buenos Tardes" and he spoke nothing but Spanish to me during our transaction. Ah, yes, Mexico was near! 

Looking back from the top of the pass, Northern Baja.

    We crossed the border and were thankful for our GPS and Google Maps which navigated us successfully through the Mexicali. Inevitably, we got turned around a bit but it was pretty easy to get  back on track. Heading west, we drove up into the most beautiful rocky, desert mountains. I can't even describe them, except that each mountain looked as if it were made of lots of smaller rocks piled upon each other, almost like globs of frosting. There were beautiful vistas and we enjoyed the drive. Coming to the top of the pass we expected to wind our way down but instead came upon what seemed to be a high plateau. We continued on to Tecate and then turned south toward Ensenada. By this time the light was fading; our morning delays regarding insurance had put us on the road a lot later than we'd planned. 

    The 60 miles of remaining road took us back down through mountain roads.There are a lot of vineyards in that area now, but the light was gone and we weren't able to see them. We were slowed down by some road construction but mostly the drive was smooth. The kids had had enough by this point, and there was a lot of fussing, fighting, and general falling apart. We finally came out at El Sauzal, where we made the quick drive north to San Miguel. We got a little turned around but finally arrived at our beloved Su Casa around 7PM, or 8PM Arizona time. The kids ran around like crazy monkeys on the patio, just the way my brother and sister used to when we'd arrive after a long drive. Erik unpacked the van, and I warmed up some food and tried to settle in. We've finally gotten the kids settled down and enjoyed a bowl of soup in the quietness of this special place. While I nursed Pearl I read the story written by my Great, Great Grandfather, C.E. Utt, about how he stocked the streams of San Pedro Martir with trout a hundred years ago. I looked at the photos of Su Casa being built, a gift of love from my Grams and Gramps to their family. I love to be in this place, where so many special souls have been before me. There's magic in the air. 

    I am hoping for a good night's sleep, and looking forward to sitting on the patio tomorrow, looking out over the blue Pacific at Dragon Island (or Abraham Lincoln Island, or Todos Santos, or whatever you want to call it.) I'm looking forward to reconnecting with my cousins, of visiting the home my great grandparents built, the place I ran around as a child so many years ago. 

    And so we continue on this pleasant journey. Yesterday's trip is over, and we are enjoying our destination more because of the challenges that brought us here. Buenos Noches! 


  1. Wow! I can't wait to travel vicariously with you. Please keep up the posts!

  2. I am impressed with all the travel you do with your young children! Looking forward to reading more.


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