On Sunday, we drove to the Panamint Valley in search of large yellow daisies that you can only find on that small section of the earth. We drove through the mountain pass, stopped to take in the vast, open view, and on into Death Valley to see charcoal kilns built by Chinese laborers in the late 1800s.
While there, C. took A. on a mini hike — this little 16-month-old is getting more adventurous. “Hand,” he says, wanting to hold hands while he navigates his unsteady feet over rocks.
There were no daisies — it was a dry winter and the wildflowers will be hard to spot this year. But it was the type of drive that makes you suck in your breath with wonder.
“If I were a college film student,” A. said. “This is where I’d shoot a horror film.”
We were at an abandoned mine deep in the Indian Wells Valley, and A. was downstairs in a cabin in the woods looking at debris and rusted springs from a bed from nearly a century ago.
On a tip from two dirt-bikers at the brewery the day prior, we went in search of the Nadeau-Magnolia gold mine, driving narrow dirt roads past hundreds of Joshua trees — some charred from a recent fire. When we arrived, there was a sign lying on the ground, so faded it’s hard to read: “Caution: Mining Area” and “1937.”
On one of the walls in the cabin hangs photos of Siebert family — but A. and I didn’t get a close look because we didn’t trust the wooden boards to hold our weight.
Wandering around, seeing mining equipment from the early 1900s, I felt like a kid who had walked straight into a storybook. I imagined miners calling to each other, faces covered in dirt, and the Siebert family sitting around the stove in the cabin, looking out the same window I peered out.
A. and I had stepped into history, and it was all ours to explore. We decided it’s our best discovery yet since moving to Ridgecrest, Calif. The next weekend, we tried to take A.’s parents, but there were about six people huddled near the camping area — including a tall, lanky guy holding a shotgun — and a pitbull that came charging toward our car. We turned around so fast, it’s a wonder we didn’t skid off the dirt road.
We didn’t make it up to the actual mine, about a 1/2 mile hike, but we plan to go back. (And I’d like to find out more about its history — but a quick Google search doesn’t bring anything up.) Maybe we’ll take video cameras and shoot our own horror film like the Blair Witch Project. I’m certain that with little effort — especially after dark — we can scare the bejeesus out of each other.
A. and I drove to Mammoth on Thursday afternoon for our first overnight date since C. was born. We drove along the Eastern Sierras on virtually empty roads as the sun cast shadows on the mountains. When we arrived early evening, we both bought shiny new ski pants, drank beer (A.) and a white Russian (me) at a buzzing ski bar and then got the most delicious Thai food we’d ever had at Thai’d Up (A. kept calling it Thai Me Up).
The next morning, we hit the slopes and it was a bluebird day. I skied for the first time in 13 years (I switched from snowboarding because I figure I won’t want to risk a hard fall when I’m 60). And it was the first time either of us had been on the slopes in a couple of years. By early afternoon, I was cruising so fast I could hear the wind whistling through my red ski coat. And by 3 p.m., both of our legs were mush. I was so shaky, I barely made it down the last slope.
On the way home, we stopped in Bishop for a frothy latte and a dip in the art supply store (I bought watercolors!). And then on we drove, back along the Sierras, and we studied the peaks we plan to explore (including Mt. Whitney) during our stay in the desert.
I love travel. Always have. But lately, I have quietly struggled when C. doesn’t sleep well on the road. Often, he’ll cry that first night in a new place, which stresses me out, and he won’t nap, which makes for a fussy baby. Not this weekend.
We met friends in Palm Springs for three nights, and C. slept like an angel. He went down easily for the night in his travel crib. He napped on two hikes — one overlooking Palm Springs and another in the Indian reservation (where we saw the spring for which the city is named — a true oasis). He napped in the car on the way to Joshua Tree.
And then, on our last day, he took a late afternoon nap so that A. and I could dip in the heated pool just outside the door of the condo we rented for the weekend. I fit into my pre-pregnancy bathing suit (yay!) and enjoyed the sun’s warmth and felt so relaxed and happy. Yeah, I like California in the winter.
At Detroit Metro airport, waiting for our return flight to D.C. (a much better, leisurely trip).
I stood in the ticket counter line, panicked and on the verge of tears. The lady helping the man before me seemed to be in slow motion. Smiling, slowly leaning down to put a tag on his bag, slowly reaching over to grab his passport.
“C’mon, C’mon!!” I muttered to myself, bouncing up and down.
My flight from D.C. to Detroit was leaving in 25 minutes. I had checked in online, but when I got to the Delta kiosk to print my boarding pass, the machine said I was too late. And then an incompetent lady walked me back to the kiosk to do what I had just done, only to get the same message. I was furious that she wasted three precious minutes.
“Sorry,” she said, not sorry. “You can take the flight leaving in 3 hours.”
“No, no,” I said. “I think I can make it.”
“It’s against regulation,” she huffed. “You can talk to one of our service representatives, but you have to wait in line.”
So I did. And when I got up to the nice lady at the counter, I started to cry.
“This is my first time traveling with my baby alone,” I blubbered, tears running down my face. “I really need to make this flight. Delta sent me an email saying the flight was delayed 30 minutes.”
He came back to the table, sat down, looked at my plate and looked at me with a teasing glint in his eyes.
“You like that?” he said as I chewed a bite of what I thought was beef stew.
I stopped chewing.
“It’s pony,” A. said, laughing.
Pony is a delicacy in Iceland. A. and I were in Hveragerdi, a town in southwest known for its geothermal springs. There’s an agricultural university, several hot springs and greenhouse after greenhouse. And we were eating from a traditional Icelandic buffet. Pork, lamb, carrots, cod with cheese — and pony. A. had eaten horse sausage from a buffet earlier in the week — not knowing what it was — and when we both found out from our waiter (“I’m afraid to tell you what you are eating,” he said), I had turned down the corners of my mouth in disgust. So A. thought it was hilarious that I was eating pony.
It was one of our adventures on our first international trip with C.
I wanted to push the limits, to see what it was like to travel with a 5 1/2 month old. Turns out, C. is a little trooper. Iceland was a good choice because it’s a 5 1/2 hour flight direct from D.C., inexpensive (to fly there, not to eat there) and baby-friendly. There are little high chairs in the restaurants (we put C. in three of them, including one that doubled as a rocking boat) and beautiful changing stations in the bathrooms.
I was nervous about the overnight flight — that it would mess up C.’s sleeping or he would freak out while others were sleeping.
Last weekend, A. and I planned on dipping our toes in the hot summer sand at the beach since the summer has been so hectic and we haven’t had any beach time and I looove beach time. But, as everyone knows, mean Hurricane Irene was staring down the east coast like a school-yard bully, so instead we ran in the other direction.
We got in the car on Saturday morning about 10 a.m. A. kindly asked me not to look at a map — he wanted to drive and see where we ended up. We listened to Car Talk and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me! as we drove west under the gray skies.
When we hit Winchester, Va., we stopped in an independent coffee shop in the town’s historic strip and got a chai and egg sandwich on thick homemade multi-grain bread. And then we continued on toward West Virginia, where the skies turned blue with a few clouds dotting the sky. We passed a wind farm and then after a few wrong turns, we found a short hike in Canaan Valley.
A. and I returned a week ago from a two-week road trip from San Francisco to Seattle. We drove miles and miles on winding roads, my bare feet on the dashboard, listening to Bruce Springsteen and soaking in the scenery.
We visited with dear friends in San Francisco, southern Oregon and Seattle. We gawked at red woods and sequoias, hiked up mountains (my max was about 4 miles), walked on the beach, drank chais and ate granola and fresh berries.
And we laughed. A lot — sometimes like schoolchildren. We paid $5 to drive through a sequoia. A. wrote me a note in the Holiday Inn in Redding, Calif.: “I like you. Do you like me? Check a box: Yes or No.” I was laughing so hard that night, I had tears running down my face.
We stayed in funky hotel in Boonville, Calif., a beautiful log cabin in Sisters, Ore., and in a motel on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.
And we talked and talked — about our finances and baby names. And maybe someday moving to the mountains.
Every time I go to New York, I’m inspired.
When I get off of the train at Penn Station and spill onto 7th Avenue into a throng of people, I often see women wearing beautiful skirts, or unusual shoes or unique earrings. I usually feel the antithesis of hip, but it doesn’t bother me — I go to steal ideas. The hustle and bustle of New York — yes, even the car horns and flashing lights — gives me a burst of energy (though I know I couldn’t live there at this stage in my life).
Last weekend, I went up for a two-day excursion with my dear friend S., who has gorgeous 19-month-old twins. It was a girls’ weekend getaway — the goal was to shop, walk, talk and eat good food. And that’s where I found my inspiration this time, in the food. Actually, more precisely in the drinks.
One thing I didn’t expect to see in Tanzania was so many beautiful — and big — birds. Maybe that’s because I was so excited to see giraffes and zebras and cheetahs in the wild, birds didn’t cross my mind. But in the Serengeti, I felt a bit like a bird gazer — I kept noticing them fluttering by — especially a bright green one with a yellow belly (A. and I didn’t get a photo of it). When we saw it, we pointed and said, “Ohhhh! Look at that! Did you see that?” I know very little about birds, including the birds below (and I’m having trouble finding some of their names). One of the Australians we met was carefully going through a bird book and marking it up: I should have snuck up behind him and stolen that book and run as fast I could.
African village weaver
African ground hornbill