Thursday, December 1, 2011

Travels with my Aunt

I was lucky enough to have my aunt Sally volunteer to ride with me when I drove out to San Diego to pick up Ameranth last month. So I headed south first to Pensacola to pick her up, after a two hour detour in Alabama to visit a former neighbor of ours. It has been 10 years since I saw her (the neighbor, not my aunt) and I wasn't about to get that close and not stop by. That same reasoning led Sally and me first to Texas to visit my brother and see his small ranch. And that really was right on the way west.

Sectaurs had offered the use of his GPS and thank goodness he did! I hadn't stopped to think that all my previous trips had included a human navigator as well as the driver. I was a little wary of the device and its British lady voice that I dubbed Alberta (because she seemed cold and distant-ha) but Sectaurs was right about the placement of the map being very similar to that of  one in a video game. I grew particularly fond of the speed limit info she displayed, especially since the light bulb behind the speedometer konked out on us midway through the trip.

The first day covered familiar territory and I had no trouble until I was driving through Hartford. I had glanced at a map and discussed with Ms. M which roads to take to avoid driving too close to NYC. Alberta seemed to be sending me south when I wanted to go westward. I took the plunge, rejected her turn and got my first cool "recalculating" as she desperately gave me alternate paths to go her way. I won that battle and the pink route line went my way. Shortly after that I saw signs for the Tappan Zee bridge and couldn't remember if that was the way I wanted or not. Pulling over to check the map proved the GPS was right so we were even at one each. She became Bertie and we settled into a good working relationship for the rest of the trip. I miss her now.

Sally insisted that she was 'just along for the ride" and that I decide the route and the stops, etc. She and her late husband had driven out west several times and she had been the navigator and liked having the atlas open on her lap. I liked that too, since it gave me the 'big picture' of where we were.  She was familiar with the roads and a little doubtful at first about some of Bertie's choices but in the end she was trying to justify needing her own GPS.

I looked for pictures for this post, and am sadly lacking ones with humans in them. I waited for Sally to turn around at the beach, but had to settle for this one.
She was looking for rocks, which she does everywhere, mailing them home to herself in those flat-rate boxes. I remember thinking "Great, we're waiting for Ameranth to show up, and Sally's going to fall off these rocks!" But she didn't.

Here's another shot of her in the background in Texas. #2's driveway is paved with sandstone (I think) that is chock full of fossilized seashells and Sally was checking that out.
We had a lot of fun, getting pretty silly sometimes. Our drive was carefully planned so that we had plenty of gas and no reason to have to stop in El Paso. Although we laughed at ourselves, we were a little nervous and cautious about where we stayed and being in a motel before it was too late at night. I think it was crossing into California where we passed through a Agricultural Inspection station. A stern lady asked if we had any fruit in our cooler, but the grapes we had were okay. We confessed to having an apple and orange and were told they had to be checked. Of course, I couldn't find them. Finally I handed them over, she confiscated them and we were free to go. 

A few miles down the road and still joking about the fruit lady, Sally pointed out that we were very close to the Mexican border, according to the atlas. Looking to the left, we could see a long fence wending its way across the sand dunes. We wanted a picture, but the numerous signs citing emergency stops only easily convinced me to keep driving. But when I saw an exit and overpass, I thought that would be a good way to get closer for a photo. We saw a closed gate and a sign stating that the road ended and all vehicles needed a permit to go farther. Of course, I turned around, but since Sally was chiding me for not going closer, I stopped and told her she could get out and get the picture if she wanted. She did.

If this picture were larger, you could see that the white Border Patrol vehicle that was parked at the gate is now driving towards us. Sally hopped in the car and we took off. Slowly. I stopped at the sign and carefully turned onto the highway. No need to stop me, officer, I have no interest in the border fence, none at all. He followed us. We were very relieved when the car passed us....until I saw the sign for the upcoming border stop. Laughing nervously, I said he was warning them about us and Sally wondered who we should use our one phone call on? We drove up to the heavily armed soldiers and waited for the interrogation. What we got was 'Have a good day, drive through'.  Whew!

A few miles later, Bertie took us through the desert west of San Diego, after we checked that we had enough gas for wherever she was taking us. Another few miles us that road, we surprised several men lounging at the side of the road at another border checkpoint. One came over and said pleasantly that we had snuck up on them since they hadn't heard us coming. He commented on my Maine license plate and asked where we were going. When I told him that I was going to San Diego to pick up my daughter, who had walked across the country, he straightened up and asked sharply, "She walked across the border??" No, no, let me give you her card and I hastily explained what she was doing. So, sorry Ameranth, if you ever get a call from the border patrol, it was my fault.

We stopped later when I saw a wind sock in the middle of the desert and wanted a picture. Sally hunted for rocks and I worried about rattlesnakes under the bushes.
The plane circled a few times while we made up stories about aerial surveillance but it landed with no attempt at contact with us. 

 I did get one of the 3 4 of us later in Zion Park after we escaped certain death enjoyed the drive through the canyons and switchback roads.
Jumping ahead in our trip (yes, Grampa, I'll write more another day) we drove to Kalispell MT where we left Sally to stay with her younger son and his family before she flew home. It was nice to get a chance to go there since Ameranth was a baby the last time I saw Steve, and I had never met his wife and son. But thanks to our family emails I felt as if I knew them and it was a fun visit.

Thank you Sally for coming with me- you made what could have been a very tedious drive a lot of fun.


In Real Life said...

It sounds like a really wonderful trip! What a great experience! I love the photo of the four of you! Beautiful scenic shots too! Especially the one of the beach! Hee Hee: Alberta - cold and distant! :)

knitwit said...

I think we have the same GPS lady. She drives me crazy and for all that posh education, she keeps pronouncing the street names wrong! I can completely hear her saying "recalcul-uh-ting" in my own head, I've heard it so many times. Sometimes taking your own route is half the adventure! Snobby British cow...
It really does sound (and look) like a fantastic trip. Thanks for sharing it with us!