August 16, 2011

America the Beautiful, Part 1


Fourteen states.

Fourteen different beds.

Fourteen thousand times we heard "Are we there yet?"

Our first big road trip is behind us, and what a trip it's been.  We've been reminded along the way of many of the things we love about our home country.

Water fountains.  Automatic soap dispensers.  The ease with which you can do laundry, wash dishes, and get an internet connection.  Berries.  Family.



There have been the normal return-to-America adjustments.  The need to remember the right side of the road to drive on.  Clearing away our own garbage at fast food restaurants.  Remembering not to feel offended if someone hands me something with his left hand.

The adjustments have been hardest for the youngest one.  Zoe - who last visited her passport country when she was three - has virtually no memory of the U.S.  She keeps asking me what island we are on.  I had to pull out the atlas and show her the big "island" of America. 

She also keeps asking me when we're going to have "normal" food.  The rest of us can't get enough of frosted shredded wheat, Chik-Fil-A, and deli meat, and poor Zoe just wants some nasi (rice). 

She is learning that the U.S. flag is not just displayed on July 4th ("Look, Mom, there's the Fourth of July flag"), that everyone around us can understand English and we can't just talk openly about them (a few embarrassing incidents with that one), and that we can take books from the library FOR FREE.  She was totally amazed.

And so am I.  This is truly an amazing country, a good bit of which we got to see on our long drive.  After Hawaii we flew to the mainland and were met by my parents who drove their van out from Georgia.  Wasn't that nice?  My dad kept saying he was going to look for an old beat-up station wagon to drive out, so that my children could experience road trips like I did - no seat belts, am radio, no a.c., and a car top carrier.

Instead they drove out in their Honda Odyssey (which does have a car top carrier), then flew back to Georgia so we could ride in style.  Our first stop was my Aunt Brenda's place in northeastern Oregon, where we grazed in her garden, went on a boat trip down the river (saw a bear!), and watched lightning strike a tree and catch it on fire. 

Foraging

Our Catch

From Oregon it was on to MAF's headquarters in Nampa for a few days, then on east to Colorado.  We spent a week with David's brothers and their families.  The kids had so much fun reconnecting with their cousins.


With cousin Rachel


Zoe and Pharoah

With the Fort Collins cousins

The road trips of my childhood consisted of driving to out of the way places to visit free (or nearly free) points of interest.  I wanted my kids to experience the same.  Driving east through Colorado we passed through the little town of Burlington and stopped to ride the historic Kit Carson County Carosel.  25 cents a pop. 105 degrees.


This carosel, made in the early 1900s, had some unusual animals for a merry-go-round - lions, tigers, dogs, zebras, and a giraffe with a boa constrictor wrapped around its neck.  Yeah, a little creepy.


Speaking of creepy, I should warn you, gentle reader, that there is a picture of shrunken heads coming up.  If that kind of thing makes you squeamish you may want to quickly scroll through the pictures. 

From Colorado we headed on to Kansas, where we visited one of the home sites of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  This site, near Independence, is where her book Little House on the Prairie was set.    The number of minivans with car-top carriers in the parking lot attested to the fact that it's one of many Little House sites that faithful readers make a pilgrimage to see.

"Pa, the rabbit stew and corn pone are done!"
A replica cabin on the site where the Ingalls family lived.  Looks the same as it did when I visited in '83.

We met Laura in the gift shop.

After Little House, we went on to the Woolaroc Museum.  Now, this is a place that has lived large in my imagination since my family visited when I was a wee lass of eight.  My father wanted to visit this particular museum because it housed the world's largest collection of shrunken heads.  As a kid, the heads both fascinated and repulsed me.  So of course I had to take my own kids there.

I think we chose the hottest day in Oklahoma history to visit - it was 110 in the shade.  The parking lot was eerily empty, but the museum was gloriously air-conditioned.  Once inside we headed straight for the head display...which, no pun intended, seemed to have shrunk since I was eight. 

 Are you ready? 




Here they are...


The heads were from South America, and just were too little to seem real.  Completely creeped out, we didn't linger long at the display, which - in my eight-year-old's mind - had taken up a whole wall of the museum.


The rest of the museum is full of Wild West paintings and Native American artifacts. 

Next post:  St. Louis to the Atlantic!

3 comments:

Laura said...

Natalie!! What a great trip! I LOVE that your daughter isn't into the American diet. There are so many days I wish I wasn't, too. Can't wait to read more.

Chad and Andi Irwin said...

I'm so jealous that you're there and I'm here! Living overseas does make you appreciate the US so much more. By the way, the shrunken heads are from our neck of the woods! Lovely! Why is there a display there??

Sarah said...

Love to hear about your road-tripping adventures...although it does make me homesick! Keep having fun!