Day Eight is the wrong place to start. But it seems appropriate for this trip. It is now three days since the world changed for us. I’m still having trouble adapting. I woke up early as usual in pain and tried to remember where I was. Where was the bag with my pills. Oh yes, strewn along I-40 in Arizona somewhere. I’m on my usual side of the bed but where’s the bathroom? I can’t believe I’m still not on track.
Day One-We are loaded, finally. The trailer is ready to go. Hitch is checked brake lights work. Somehow we managed not to put everything in its proper place. Some is-virtuous me knows her clothes are all put away. There ends the virtue. A lot of stuff is in sturdy Costco bags on the couch. Refrigerator is on and throughly stuffed.
Leaving at last, late as usual. We still hope to make my cousin John’s house and orange grove before night fall. We don’t there’s traffic. We arrive about 8 pm. It’s my birthday and I want to celebrate with John. We will both be the same age for all of 6 months. We put down our stabilizing Jacks. Extend the slide out room. Make sure exterior lights are on. Get water for dog, feed him and off we go. Me riding my mobility scooter up the very steep drive way.
John and Nancy amaze us as hosts. We enjoy a great Mexican meal complete with flan and candle. I get the celebratory birthday wine glass. Suitably hand decorated by some talented family member. Later than we should, Jack and I head down the hill and engage in the chaos of the first night in the trailer.
Day Two – Moishe, our Belgian Tervuren Shepherd, wakes beyond excited. He loves this place. It has a huge lawn where he and Jack play catch. The orchard is a magical playground full of shade in the heat, orange ‘balls’ on the ground the ‘what’s this, rabbits?’ What are they? Funny looking dogs, for sure. Nancy hollers from the porch, “Breakfast in 10.” She and John get up at 5 to get the day started for ongoing tree and fruit care. Not me, I wasn’t dressed. No problem, I’m with family. I add a maroon top over my pajama top. But on Christmas slippers I keep in the trailer a hat from the opera that says, ‘Valhalla construction” and ride up to breakfast. Jack already had on shoes and pants to play with dog. Virtue.
Breakfast is delicious. Jack has dedicated today to put the new roof rack on the car. It turns out to be a project. By lunch time he’s asking John and Nancy if we can stay another night. A yes sets in motion the setting up of the generators to run the air conditioner in the rising heat of central California. Jack toils away as I shower and dress and head up the hill. By late afternoon Nancy and I are on the deck with wine and nuts at the ready enjoying the cooling day and the gorgeous view down to the orchard and poor Jack toiling away. Success, the rack is on. Dinner ends another beautiful day camped on a flat spot in front of the orchard. Our very happy and tired dog goes peacefully to bed.
Day three – we leave for the Lance factory in Lancaster,CA because our very happy dog didn’t see the screen door and tried to run through it. Jack can’t fix it. One call later we are invited to come and stay in the one spot Lance has for overnight trailers. It wasn’t bad. Jack does his usual great job of parking. We plug in to electricity, turn on the air and settle in for dinner and bed.
Day Four-The screen door is repaired in about 5 minutes. We strike out for Arizona, We are determined Kingman, AZ or bust. I find us a spot at the Zuni Village RV Park full service, electricity, sewer hookup, and water. Despite our best efforts we arrive after dark. We decide to eat at Denny’s at the Flying J full service for autos, trucks and RV’s. Starvation avoided, we head out for the RV park. Arrival, no note on window that we can see but a note about where to park if you’re overnight or less than a week. We find a spot-with a tree! Perfect parking by Jack, we repeat all the stabilizers, room, plug in ritual and leave the rest for morning.
Day Five – We dump, a job Jack is rejoicing that is going better. It’s not a fun activity. Fill up with water. Now the adventure really begins. As decided last night, we head for Flagstaff, AZ and Marshall Lake campground in the Coconino National Forest. Rejoicing we arrive by 3:00. It takes some clever driving to explore and find a spot. It is dispersed camping with a strong warning not to cross the fence surrounding the lake which is dry from a drought. The first road made me nervous so many rocks to drive over. I could just see a burst oil pan in our Ford Expedition. So worry wart makes Jack try another road. I felt bad the views were as advertised by the ranger. Tall mountains over fall golden meadows. My version of paradise. But nothing flat. Nothing. So we kept driving and started seeing people with tents and smaller pop up tents in nice little spots. Finally a road that leads by the dry lake and a flat perfect meadow across from the ‘lake.’ We scott it and Jack finds a safe place to drive in. By this time my poor driver has made several u-turns in small spaces and dry dusty roads. But we pull in parallel to mountains and lake as the late afternoon sun casts golden shadows across the meadow. We go through our routine and turn on our Fantastic Fans since air was cool enough that we could skip generators. There were two many small rocks for our outdoor rug but Jack placed our pink flamingo, old people camping must have flamingos and names on mats. (We couldn’t find ours.). He set up our camp table and chairs. Out came the beer, the wine and cheese, crackers and apples and life got perfect. This is how to spend the end of the day, birds, dog sniffing this aromatic new landscape, a man you love and peace.
Picture 1 – Twilight on the mountains & meadow
Picture 2-Camp spot in the meadow
Day Six – Beautiful morning but wind coming up and rain in forecast. We decide to leave because if it did rain getting out would be tough. Our goal was just shy of Albuquerque NM. We hadn’t really decided where to spend the night. No matter where I called we couldn’t get a hold of the necessary person to make a reservation. So onward, we wanted to have lunch in Winslow, AZ at one of the last W——- Hotels along the train route and Route 66. We missed the exit. Later we decided to go see the Meteor Crater said the be the largest and best preserved crater in the world. Found it! Left Moishe in the trailer to enjoy the fans and Atto and I along side Jack headed up the hill to the visitor center. We didn’t tour since we had to get going but we went out on the observation deck and yes, it is one very big crater.
Off we went heading to somewhere in New Mexico. We decided to have our lunch we’d packed. I got out our sandwiches, fruit and drinks, found napkins and started to serve. I noticed Jack was doing a lot of maneuvering. I thought it was wind. I looked up and saw a car rolling over coming straight at us bottom first. Braced myself as Jack struggled with car and brakes. I felt calm and thought this vacation is over and life is about to change. I braced and got ready for impact. We were surrounded by a bubble of silence. (This felt slow but it was really quite fast.) Jack struggled to turn us to avoid a head on (Which he’d been doing all along and I didn’t see.) They were coming straight at us as they flew across the highway divide. I have no peripheral vision in my left eye so I knew nothing until I turned my head and saw disaster heading our way. ). The crash was loud and spectacular. Glass flew across the car like snow in a blizzard. When I came to I was puzzled by the pillow near my head. So airbags are a soft yellow? Jack was similarly cushioned and announced, “We’re not doing this again.” Suddenly I smell smoke. To my right smoke was rising into the car. I told Jack we had to get out now. Just then a man came up to my window and said, “Get out there’s gas dripping.” Ever the person to grab the necessary purse, I did and my beloved stick. Jack got out on my side (how we don’t remember) and pulled Moishe out of the car. I stood outside and shook. If the car had exploded we’d all have been toast. Moishe wigged out. Jack muzzled him as the dog thrashed and barked. Poor guy, his world had just ended. Trailer gone, car destroyed and everyone in danger. Protection mode entered high alert. My legs are never terribly sturdy and now they had decided opinions about walking down the embankment. (The one we didn’t roll down!). Just then a lady in a pink flowered top approached me and said she was a nurse. She helped me down the embankment, found a dining room cushion in the trailer wreckage and got me settled. She asked me if there was anything I wanted her to look for. Wonderful person, I told her about my jewelry bag which had my grandmother’s wedding band in it and our bag with all our charge cords for phones etc. Off she went on her personal treasure hunt. As I sat alone, the thought plunged into my scattered brain, “We are definitely in the Book of Life.” My husband is Jewish and we had just honored Rosh Hashanah of 5779 and Yom Kippur.
My husband, meanwhile, was frantic to recover as much as possible from the wreckage. The highway was closed down by all the wreckage. Many people came forward to help Jack look. As he hunted, four EMT’s arrived to take my vitals etc. They took down as many details about the crash as I had while talking to the State Trooper. Hearing that the highway was blocked, the troopers quickly sent out officers to help with traffic and to deal with our wreck. Looking down the road to the overturned car I couldn’t see an ambulance. The tech’s said the people could not be extracted from the car. They were waiting for the jaws of life. I was fixated on care for them. I imagined how awful their condition must be.
The EMT’s were trying to get my medical history. My brain would not work. It took me forever to remember what conditions I had. Fortunately my med list was on the drugstore app. Even now as I write this, I realize focus is hard to come by. I didn’t want to go to emergency until I’d talked to Jack. He said what ever I felt like. Then I was told that because the accident was so horrific and airbags were deployed, I had no choice. So off I went on a gurney ride. Bumpy! With the uneven drop off that went from desert to rock edging before highway. I’ll try to create a word picture of the ambulance ride. I am on the gurney wired up to monitors and blood pressure cuff. They start an IV. I’m in the middle. One tech is to the right of me. It’s decided that Jack will sit on the bench with Moishe on the floor facing the door. Jack attempts to get Moishe to jump in. Now Moishe is accustomed to doing this with the command,”Go Car.” No Way! That dog wants nothing to do with anything on wheels. Finally Jack succeeds and gets in next to him. Moishe is facing the door panting praying, I’m sure, dog prayers for quick exiting of vehicle. Tech’s finally grab Jack for BP and vitals. Suddenly ‘Mr. Nothing’s the Matter with Me- I Survive Car Crashes All the Time’ flexes the cuff arm and grabs his phone making a suddenly massively important phone call. They give up. This man is in high gear. His BP, by the way, reflects that. By the time we get to the hospital we have a hotel room that will take dogs. (Jack neglects to mention the dogs weight and nobody asks-75 lbs.)
We arrive at the hospital. Gurney woman, dog and man bring instant chaos to quiet emergency room. These people have all heard about the crash on I-40. They’ve seen the pictures. They do not expect what’s coming through the door. Big man, big dog and tiny woman on gurney all very much active and talking. Jack and Moishe go to their own room. Moishe is freaking out-literally in the best sense of the term. He’s convinced almost everyone is a threat that he must face and challenge. He’s muzzled but not quiet the barking is wicked. Finally quiet and Jack is persuaded to gown up and submit to questioning. By now the nurse in charge of me and the admit nurse know I have arthritis and a screwed up curved spine. Predictions of oncoming pain. It is starting actually. So the doctor authorizes a med that’s a much stronger version of Motrin since I explain my aversion to opioids and reaction to morphine. After the CT the tech asks if I spent my youth tying myself up into a pretzel. Nope just born crooked and getting worse.
Meanwhile Moishe is going off again so Jack drags him outside. A taxi is found, there’s only one, he agrees to take dog. We come outside and he says, “That’s not a dog. It’s a horse.” Moishe and I are dropped off at the hotel. I’ve been charged with getting a rental car. I have one reserved. Jack and taxi head for Flagstaff airport. i was told that Alamo would close at 10. I told them the earliest Jack could get there was 9. They arrive. Alamo is closed early. Furious Jack is driven back to hotel in Winslow.
Day Seven-High Gear Jack is still going strong. Me,I’m in bed drinking coffee on this crazy Sunday morning just glad to be alive. A rental car is the priority. We have to get home. Ideas are tossed around-U-Haul truck. Visions of pain dance in my head. I’m not enthusiastic. Lady who had come in on Sunday to do paper work goes home. (At the time I did not realize the extent of what was going on.). Plan B- find a car we can drive one way to California. I try Enterprise on their website. They say not from Flagstaff. Our very efficient daughter-in-law volunteers to try. (To be fair we asked for help. Her powers are well known.). Her magic fingers and brain succeed. We have a small van we can drive all the way to California. Jack calls yet another taxi driver and off they go to get the car. Somewhere in the middle of this day, actually after the car pick up, Jack calls the junk yard, they agree to let him start searching for survivables. He succeeds. I order pizza. He comes back we eat and watch TV and sleep.
The left over trailer junk at the junk yard and our totaled Ford Expedition
Back to Day Eight-You can see why I woke up disorientated. It is afternoon. Jack is still at the junk yard. I’m here with Moishe who lays with me on the bed and gives off an aura of calm at the moment. Yesterday evening, Jack actually did find some of my clothes and not ripped as my jackets were. I can change my shirt! This is a miracle. My jewelry was found so I had been changing my jewelry every day. That counts! The junk yard hunters find all kinds of crazy stuff. Pill bottles with labels nearly torn off, dead shoes, trailer gear and flotsam and jetsam I can’t remember. (For the two days Jack searched the junk yard he had help from the junk yard manager, the state trooper, the adjuster and others I’m forgetting.)
On the way to Arizona, Jack found the desert boring, uninteresting just plain not worth it. On the way home with Junk and Moishe in the back and us up front, the desert was suddenly beautiful with the oncoming storm and glorious sunsets. We made it home with only a one night motel stay.
A month later – Our brains are still not in top shape. Words go sliding out of memory on greased wheels. The slowness we exhibited in unpacking the many Costco bags that had been filled with trailer belongings are still not all unpacked. Friends and family want to see us and give hugs. We didn’t want to miss our granddaughters 21st birthday so we got reservations and flew to Nebraska about a week after we got home. We didn’t display any form of energy but super enjoyed all the birthday celebrations like a mimosa breakfast, dinner in a fun funky place to order saki and down at the bar first wine ordered out. There was a delicious boyfriend baked layered birthday cake.
Thanksgiving, we were alive that was the really big thing. Jack cooked a feast and we saw friends and family for 3 days of food and thankfulness.