Las Vegas: Guest Blog | A Letter of all the things I Missed

Dear Gracie,

A small part of us died saying goodbye to you mid vacation so that you could go back to classes at college.

It seemed appropriate to make our next vacation stop Death Valley.  But we had promised Ryan another trip to Red Rock Canyon, so we stopped by there on the way to do some minor rock climbing.  Now, since I had missed Mawmaw’s 70’th birthday celebration, I’d been looking for something to do with her this trip that we could consider 70’th birthday celebration worthy.

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Well, this was it! Not just any 70-year-old lady can climb the rocks and walk the “trails” we did.  So, Mawmaw said we could consider this “hike” to be a 70’th birthday adventure.

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The birthday hike. (You know, since my mother feels guilty for missing the party)

It got even better when we made it to our high destination and two twenty year old men showed up with a dog and rigged up a rope system to get their dog, Apollo, from one rock over a gorge of sorts to another rock.

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Dog Transportation at its finest.

From there we drove to Beatty, Nevada, where our accommodations (probably the nicest in town) were rather cramped.  Really, only one person could move about the room at a time.  It was too much trouble to try and shower all of us in these tight accommodations, so we chose to forgo cleanliness for the next day.   Also, and probably most disconcerting, we had to pay $2.50 for Internet access here.  And we could only have two people connected at a time, which was truly inconvenient with three wifi addicts. But we managed.

Backing up a little, after dropping you off, we went back to just one rent car. Inside, we crammed a gigantic bow case, 7 suitcases, and 7 people. Cramped is an understatement.  Ellie was keeping track of how many times her suitcase fell and hit her in the face as it was wedged between her and the window.  We had to set up what we refer to as a “protocol situation” for getting in and out of the vehicle.  This protocol involves a seating arrangement and an order in which we MUST enter and exit the car to quickly and efficiently fit inside the car.  We are all trained.

Every time we get out of the car it goes something like this:

  • *Dad parks car*
  • Dad: PROTOCOL POSISTIONS
  • *Everyone falls into formation for exiting the vehicle.*

Ellie, Ryan, and I all sat on the far backseat.  I have major bruising on my right side from being elbowed by Ryan every time he buckles himself in.  He’s rather rough, and we have been in and out of the car constantly. And my other arm hurts from trying to hold Ellie’s suitcase up so we don’t tally past three head injuries from it hitting her.  We’re all sick of being reminded of the tally she is keeping.

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So, we spent Wednesday in Death Valley, getting in and out of the car, using our protocol system.  Our first stop—just outside of Death Valley—was a really weird open-air museum and ghost town.  It had some crazy, weird art, but it would have been a picture taking paradise for you [Gracie].  We did our best to channel our inner picture taking, but I’m sure none of our photos would live up to your talents.

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Scott and Mollie trying to look cool.

Now we wanted so much not to do anything too super amazing without you.  BUT Death Valley has So. Many. Breathtaking, dramatic clapping, bravo God moments.  And, yes, Daddy, Mollie, Ryan and Ellie have used each opportunity to the fullest to make fun of me with more dramatic clapping.  We experienced Hell’s gate and shook hands with the Devil (this is just a dramatic way of saying that the temperature increased 20 degrees over the course of 3 miles).  We ate Indian tacos, stood on the salt flats (lowest point in America) and looked up to the highest point in America (Mt. Whitney), hiked to a natural bridge, saw a hillside called artist’s palette, and finished the day at Zabriskie Point overlook where we watched the sun begin to set.

Additionally, we met our new best friends, Rob and Michelle.  They are from the Netherlands—professional musicians.  We met them while we were walking on a salt pathway

  • Mollie: What is further down if we kept walking?
  • Rob: More salt and rocks.

Pawpaw then entered into a 20-minute conversation with them standing right there on the salt flats.

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Talking to musicians for an unbelievable amount of time.

Afterwards, we decided to start a new family competition.  Whoever can introduce their self to and have the longest conversation with a stranger wins! Game on! (update: I tried on Thursday with some New Yorkers and was severely shot down.)

In Death Valley, Ryan has narrowly escaped quite a few near death experiences.  They all involved Mollie nearly killing him for things like:

  • Breaking into her personal bubble
  • Asking stupid questions
  • Putting his arm on her too roughly for pictures
  • Eating too loudly (my personal favorite).

Surprisingly though, not farting.  Apparently, she has more toleration for it than you did.  Or maybe she just can’t smell. Anyway, these near death experiences for Ryan have disturbed the peaceful Zen for the other tourists in many of the breathtaking, dramatic clapping, Bravo God moments around Death Valley National Park.

On Wednesday night, we stayed in the Panamint resort, and by resort, I mean, it was our last resort.  This place was remote, and the only thing resort like about it was the unusually nice couch, which was much nicer than any of the other furniture.  But it had enough beds for all of us at a fairly reasonable price.  There was no wifi and no cell service. How on earth can you call a place a resort when it has no wifi or cell service? But THE STARS out in this remote area resort.  THE STARS.  *dramatic clapping* Bravo God!  There are So. Many. Stars.

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After surviving our resort accommodations in Panamint, we were ready for another day of sight seeing in Death Valley.  We hiked to a waterfall, through a salt marsh, on a sand dune, and around a crater all of us trying to out do each other with “Gracie style photos” along the way. Overall, it was another great day.

We survived with limited internet/cell service; MOLLIE even lived. We were without internet for like 15 hours straight.  And with very sketchy internet for like 36 hours (as in we had to sit in a parking lot on an Indian village in Death Valley for a few minutes to try to get a call out to try to reserve a hotel for the night and we all real quick checked our texts and such).

We have had questions about various things as we travelled around Death Valley but have to use traditional methods (read the brochures) to find answers, as we can’t access “The Google”. When traditional methods don’t work, we are keeping a running list of things to look up on Google when we get back to civilization.

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Crammed into the vehicle on the way backbench with Ellie and Ryan on either side of me traversing the roads out of Death Valley, I read the last installment of your blog aloud to the family.  We laughed as we read your rendition of the times we enjoyed together, and I laughed so hard I cried when I read the part about the farts and crafts.

We got our quote of the day from Mollie…

  • Mollie: It shouldn’t be that hard to find an HEB around here, right?

Hmmm, it might be pretty hard since that’s a TEXAS thing. A shoutout to HEB, Mollie misses you.

We are approaching civilization again as I type and gearing up for a weekend of volleyball. The only thing that would have made our trip to Death Valley better, would have been having YOU there! But here’s to looking forward to spring break with you in just a few short weeks. We will grill steak and shrimp over flowerpots full of charcoal.  and sit down with roasted marshmallows—dipped in chocolate, of course—as we sit on the back porch together, and I will once again give a dramatic handclap, and bravo to God because He has surrounded me with the people I love the most.

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