It’s the last day of vacation and Los Alamos, New Mexico, gives us a warm welcome. Actually, it is Miles that gives us a warm welcome. He has picked out a breakfast spot, and we meet him at the Pig + Fig for one final reunion before we head home.
This is the first time KK and Scott have seen Miles since we parted ways at Cape Flattery, Washington, 11 days ago. Hugs!
We really wanted to get a look at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) where Miles works. But the lab is kinda funny about visitors, and they have really strong opinions about pictures. Miles did tell us that there is actually a road that visitors can drive that goes through LANL, and so we opted for that. It was the best we could ask for.
As you are driving down the road, and you come up to LANL, you come upon individual guard booths, like you might see entering Disneyworld or a toll booth. We pulled up to one of the booths. It did not go great. Mallory recorded this conversation I had with the guard:
Guard: Why are you here?
Steve: We’re here to see the lab!
Guard: You can’t see the lab.
Steve: Oh, our son has an internship and we’re just going to see where he works.
Guard: You cannot see the lab.
Steve: We’re not! This is a through road, isn’t it?
Guard: Yes. 4.5 miles straight through. Stay in the right lane. No pictures.
Stephanie: Oh yeah, we know “no pictures”.
Steve: Are we clear?
Guard: Stay in the right lane.
We followed Miles for a bit and he pulled into a parking lot. We all got out of our cars there and he pointed out a few buildings. We assumed every other person walking through the parking lot was there to watch us.
After a long goodbye, we left Miles to work on his lasers, or whatever was on his agenda for the day. We drove back through the same gate area we entered, and this time, without incident.
A few final thoughts on Los Alamos. Before we pulled out of town, we stopped at a convenience store to get ice. That was because our hotel ice machines were not functional. The gas station we stopped at did not have ice either. The clerk apologized and said she sure wished she had some ice. What’s the deal with this town? Has Miles been drinking room temperature water all summer?
The Los Alamos High School mascot is the Hilltoppers. What? Boring! Los Alamos is not widely known because of their hills, they are known for their lab. How about the Atoms, or something that embraces your individuality? No charge for the advice.
The remainder of the day was an exercise in getting home as quickly as possible, with as few spots as we could manage. We did indulge ourselves with a stop at Clines Corner in New Mexico. It is a gift shop nirvana. My Mom later told me that I stopped at Clines Corner with her and her Mom, when I was about 9 months old, on a trip to see my Dad graduate boot camp in San Diego.
The drive continued. We stopped for dinner at Braum’s in Weatherford, OK. Scott said, “I cannot have a blizzard for dinner two days in a row.” Wow, that is pretty inflexible of Scott. So we ate burgers and had a little taste of Oklahoma.
Our caravan parted ways in Edmond, and we arrived home before Midnight. Hooray! The trip encompassed 16 days, 6300 miles, and 12 states. We will always be indebted to PK and KK for making this trip happen. It is safe to say that through our family vacations over the years, we have now covered every state west of the Mississippi River. You can’t beat the West!
There are a lot of final thoughts and notes that did not make it into the daily blog postings. These little tidbits were the flavor of our trip and in many cases, kept us laughing for days.
“Geezer Sweep” – we came up with a new term on this trip. Any time we were ready to leave a location, the call was out to perform a Geezer Sweep and round up PK and KK. It’s not just the 3-year-olds you have to keep an eye on, you know!
On a stretch of deserted highway in Nevada, the other car announced on the 2-way radio they were going to pull over and have a Chinese Fire Drill. “Oh, that sounds fun! I’m going to time them.”. I started my stopwatch as we pulled off the road. Final stopwatch reading: 14 minutes. (World’s worst Chinese Fire Drill.)
The day we visited Crater Lake, we were on our drive back to the hotel. Marissa was playing music from her playlist over the radio, but Mallory was managing the music. All of a sudden, Stephanie groans from the backseat, ‘Ooohhhhhhh”. “What’s wrong?!!!!” “Mallory changed Marissa’s song.” Now anytime you have something to say, you can always groan as though you are doubled over in pain, to help make your point.
We drove over 6,000 miles on this trip. Definitely one of our longest vacations, if not the longest. The first two days (Oklahoma to Spokane, Washington) and the last two days (Los Alamos, New Mexico to Oklahoma) were almost entirely on Interstates. The other 13 days in the middle involved very little Interstate driving. I would guess maybe 6 hours of Interstate on the bulk of the trip. We got to see America, and we got to see it from state highways.
Far and away, the music that we listened to the most on this trip was the Rocketman soundtrack. Rocketman is the movie about Elton John, and the funny thing about the soundtrack is that it is not Elton singing, but the actor who played him, Taron Egerton. The music was fun, and the singing along together was even better.
“Mt Hood Fan” – On the 8th day of our vacation, we drove all the way around Mt. Hood, outside Portland, Oregon. It is a gorgeous volcano. So gorgeous that it appears to have its own fan. There was an anonymous commenter on the blog for the next 5 days going by the name “Mt. Hood Fan” that compared everything (negatively) that we did against Mt. Hood. A particular highlight occurred when Mt. Hood Fan stated that Mount Hood “could hold a billion whales easy”. From that point on the trip, we were constantly comparing stuff we’d see to the size of whales. “How big was that restaurant?” “Oh, it would hold about half a whale.”