Saturday, August 23, 2014

Vacation 2014: Before Yellowstone Destroys Us All: Day 1 & 2

This year, we are skipping Burning Man. We have several friends who are going and there is a ton of great art we also will be missing, but we need to do something else that is just us. We have a bit of healing to do and the Burn would be too much right now, too emotional and we are too raw. Ultimately rather than the crowd, we need each other.

So we decided to visit Yellowstone, before it destroys us all.

I have never been, Gregory hasn’t been since he was a young lad. And since, according to the news, it is the end of days every other day, we figure we better hop to it. We have stops planned along the way, family bread to our bison and wolf meat vacation-wich.

We begin on Friday: we set out from LA hesitantly. I was hesitant, only in that I was waiting for the dishwasher repair person to show up and he gave me the window of basically the exact time we were scheduled to leave. Having a dishwasher is important, and a fully operational one, even more so. I feel like part of the point of having a house is to have your own dishwasher and laundry to use and abuse as much as you want. Of course you have to pay for it eventually, but it’s a personal excess/accomplishment I’m happy to chuck money at…eventually. When is not getting something a victory? When the thing you aren’t getting is quarters for laundry, because you can do as much laundry as you want! Victory!

Gregory was fed up with waiting, so he packed the car and drove away. After a brief run to catch up with him, we were officially on the road.

This is our summer trip 2014, and possibly our only real vacation in 2014, so it’s a big deal and I’m going to document it as best as I can. The good, the bad, the indifferent.

It was about 3PM on a Friday and our first real waypoint was Bishop, and the freak-ass tourist-trap deli, Erik Schaats. When you see all the gooey bread confections upon entering, you’ll nearly schiit your pants. They have an impressive selection of sandwiches and Sheepherder bread, and a number of other kinds of bread (bacon-cheese!), and also cinnamon roll-type monkey-bread-pull-apart yumminess topped in candied pecans and diabetes. Given their sandwich counter was closed, and the available sandwiches were limited to tuna salad and roast turkey, I insisted on roast turkey. There were burners on the road, and I didn’t want to compete with them. At the prospect of the coming 10 days with a diet of protein bars and weed, their radical self reliance may extend all the way to “cut-a-bitch-for-a-sandwich” and I’m not prepared to go there just now. I just want to get the sandwich and leave.

But we have one last stop: Vons. I need a birthday card and gift certificates for my 17-year-old nephew. Starbucks and iTunes will fit the bill this year. He’s a great kid and now he’s a senior in high school. I really wish him the best. This year is going to be so amazing for him and I’m excited for him. Oh to relive those awkward high school days.

Gag me with a spoon!

With our gas, greeting and gift card mission complete, we set out to our next waypoint, a mysterious camping spot between Gabbs and Austin in Nevada. We have camped here before. There’s a little service road that goes around a hill and it is a great private spot for stealth camping. When we got there, though, we realized we were only 3 hours away from our actual destination, and neither of us were particularly tired.

So after a few amazing night shots (the night sky with all its stars was incredibly accommodating) we braved the night drive and arrived in Elko safely at 1AM. My sister was meeting us at Dad’s house and offered to make up the pull-out sofa so we could just stumble in and crash. We did just that.

At about 5AM, Gregory could take no more and went to the car to retrieve his sleeping bag and pad and set up camp in the living room, unable to bear the discomfort of the sofa bed.

Saturday morning arrived and the first order of business was to pick up Dad from the hospital. He checked himself in a couple of days before, after he experienced shortness of breath, and general difficulty in breathing. So as his condition worsened, he did what anyone in that situation would do: he drove himself to the emergency room. Because not breathing while driving is fun apparently. His oxygen was dangerously low, and it turns out his lungs were filling with fluid and he also had congestive heart failure.

After getting all that drained off, he was given a prescription for oxygen and new drugs. Yay! Our favorite! MORE pills (he already takes a pharmacy, so what is the harm in a few new ones?)

So after he was outfitted with a tank and hoses and a carburetor we went home so we could watch him breathe. 

Actually our real reason for visiting Elko at the beginning of our vacation was to go through mom’s stuff and figure out what we wanted to divide up, what should stay with dad, and what should be thrown out—or better yet—donated to a group that could really use that. It has been a few months since her death and it is definitely time to think about dad and what he will need going forward.

He is an organized person and mom was only sort of organized. She had a system…for some things. I think some of this is for closure, piece of mind, and a new way of looking at the world each day. We all have finite time on this plane and we each have a right to putting our house in order so we can enjoy that time to our personal satisfaction. I think this part of the journey is helping all of us—not just dad—do exactly that.

So we went through her clothes first, planning to donate most everything to the women’s shelter. There were a few things, my aunt and sister wanted. We went haphazardly through the rest. We all wandered room to room, not entirely sure what we were doing, scared to put too much or too little importance into a small pile of papers, or a bowl or basket. She had little post-its filled with notes or instructions, references to things only she knew, very important bits of information whose reason for existence faded completely in her absence. I was overwhelmed with ambivalence as I glanced through a small collection of post its about a picture she planned to paint, referencing photos, colors, and a future that didn’t exist. I threw them in the garbage bag, feeling just fucking sad. These were so important to her. And I though of all the bullshit that is so important to me.

We were bailed out of the sadness spiral by the promise of cake. It was my nephew’s birthday and that meant some laughs, good food, tasty drinks, and did I mention the cake?


I had Hendrick’s gin. It’s over. They won. I’m going to have to go Hendrick’s. Sapphire has a special place in my gullet, but Hendricks just threw down and stole my heart. Also I made this tasty corn-stuff with parmesan and lime juice. It was the bomb. My brother barbecued beef steaks and lamb shank. I had some of each, because vacation. Vaaacaaationnnn!

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