This morning has been designated as “Mom and Jon Go Birthday Shopping.” Jonathan and I have a long tradition of shopping together. When he was just a few weeks old I would bundle him up (it is cold in Massachusetts in February!) and we would go to the grocery store or to Shoppers World to escape the loneliness of being in a house on a dirt road with no family nearby and almost no neighbors in rural New England. I would talk to him non-stop filling in his part of the conversation. We had good times!
On Saturday it is his birthday and he will be 46. Our shopping together days are mostly gone and have dwindled down to a shopping trip when he joins us for a week in Utah. We always go to the outlet strip mall, The Shoppes at Zion. As an aside, the use of shoppes was first seen in Chaucer’s 1386 Canterbury Tales, The Cook’s Tale, “He loued bet the Tauerne than the shoppe” (“He loved the tavern more than the shop”). Usage today is to suggest an Old World charm. The Zion Shoppes are neither old nor charming but it is where we shop.
We purchase a variety of birthday gifts – several pairs of pants (buy one get one 50% off!), a couple of tops (half off the lowest price marked!), and shoes (again buy one pair get the second pair 50% off!) We are feeling pretty good about our purchases. Then we head to Harmon’s, our favorite grocery store, to get what we need for dinner. We accomplish all this in about two hours.
This afternoon is quiet. Jonathan has gone off to Sand Hollow to play golf, John has two business calls, and I finish a book I have been reading and catch up on my blog writings.
Dinner tonight consists of shrimp tacos, Mexican rice, and spicy beans. It is yummy.
It is pretty cold here. The normal high for today is 55F and it has been as warm as 70F. But not today. It is around 30F when we wake up and is supposed to hit a high of 45F around 4 PM. Jonathan is undeterred by the weather. John and I are totally deterred.
Jonathan decides he will play golf at Bloomington Country Club which is the place we are staying at. He has new clubs and a little cold weather is no problem. He explains to me that in St. George you can tolerate a much wider range of temperatures. So 40F, no problem. In the summer, 100F, no problem. He loves it here. I know he wishes that we had not sold our house in St. George but understands our reasoning.
Off he goes around 11AM and he plays with some other guys and also by himself. He likes playing alone because then he can play two balls on each hole. It is a new course for him and he scores 95. He recounts his successes and errors when he gets back.
While Jon is playing golf, John and I go shopping for binoculars at Walmart. We still have hope of seeing the Green Comet. Binoculars are very expensive we find out. The cheapest pair they have costs $114.00. Since we have a perfectly good pair at home we decide that either we will try to see it just with our eyes or wait until we get home. It should be nearest the earth on February 2. The trouble with trying to find it at home is that there is way too much light pollution. It is much darker here.
For dinner we have penne with tomato sauce and meatballs. We make the entire pound of pasta so we will have leftovers for lunch. I go to the trouble of making my own sauce but I must admit to using frozen meatballs.
After dinner we watch “Wallander”, a detective/mystery program starring Kenneth Branagh. We have watched it before but it is our St. George thing to do with Jonathan. We all admit to forgetting most of it anyway.
This morning it is cold and windy as we leave Barstow, CA. The plan today is to explore Zzyzx, pass through Las Vegas, enjoy the scenery in the Virgin River Gorge, arrive in St. George for a late lunch, do some grocery shopping, and finally check in to our rental around 4PM. We are staying at a new place in Bloomington, UT and they have made it very clear that there are NO early arrivals.
We exit I-15 at the weirdly named Zzyzx Road. Who wouldn’t want to know what is down this road? Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Zzyzx.
“Curtis Howe Springer made up the name Zzyzx and gave it to the area in 1944, claiming it to be the last word in the English language. He established the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa in 1944 at the spot which was on federal land. He used the springs to bottle his water and provide drinks for travelers through the hot desert. Springer also imported animals from around the country to attract more families to visit his ranch. He used Zzyzx until 1974 when the land was reclaimed by the government.” In 1976 the BLM and California State University agreed to manage the land around Zzyzx and established CSU desert studies.
We are driving along Zzyzx Road along the edge of Soda Lake which is a dry lake bed. We have had a lot of rain in California lately and unfortunately the road is flooded after a couple of miles. Having stupidly tried to get through a small creek in the desert and gotten stuck we know when it is time to turn around.
We spend a few minutes taking pictures before heading back to the freeway. It is important to document the fact that the Mojave River which flows under Soda Lake has some water in it. This is only the second time we have seen it with water in the last thirty years!
Now we are back on the road and heading toward the California/Nevada border. Primm, NV is the first town you come to. Near the border there are lots of gambling opportunities.
Now it is on to Las Vegas which is about 40 miles away. You start to get the LV vibe way before 40 miles. Every year it seems that Las Vegas grows further south.
Since it is Sunday the traffic is light which is not usually the case in Las Vegas. Not too much longer we are out in the wilds of Nevada. The wind is really blowing now. The forecasts said gusts up to 50 mph. I am really glad Jonathan is driving as the car is buffeted by the high wind. Even scarier are the big trucks lurching in the gale. The mountains are snow covered in the distance.
On our trip to Utah we pass through the Arizona Strip. It is the 30 miles of Arizona between Nevada and Utah on I-15. The freeway passes through the Virgin River Gorge. It is a winding canyon sculpted by the river. The scenery is spectacular.
We only need to go 5 miles into Utah to reach our exit. First order of business is to have lunch. Most eating establishments are closed on Sunday since they are run and staffed by Mormons. We know that Tia’s will be open and make a beeline there.
We make a quick stop at Harmon’s for kitchen essentials and then check into our villa at the Bloomington Country Club. We are trying a new place this year since Estrada raised its prices to around $500 a night. At BCC we get a three bedroom, 2200 sq. ft. place for $150. But will it be nice? Yes, it is and much better equipped than the units we have been renting in the past.
After an easy sushi dinner we watch a little TV but I am tired from all the driving and we decide on an early night.
Jon arrives at our house around 7:45 AM. We are all really looking forward to the trip. Jon drives first and he drives to the town of Santa Nella first where we stop at a McDonald’s for breakfast. This town named Santa Nella is not named after a saint named “Nella”. There is no saint named Nella. The name is an English language corruption of the Spanish word centinela (“sentinel”), referring to the earlier Centinela Adobe that was located in the vicinity.
Jon continues on to Lost Hills, CA whose claim to fame is that James Dean stopped near there for a snack before meeting his untimely death in a car accident.
Now I am driving and we travel along to Bakersfield, CA which is kind of a cow/oil/agro town represented by Kevin McCarthy. We are planning to stop for lunch at El Puesto which has good reviews on Google and Yelp. The place is packed when we get there and there is no place to park. We give up and head up to Tehachapi where we settle on Petra’s Mediterranean Restaurant and have gigantic gyros. I can only eat half of mine!
For a little diversion on the way to Barstow we ride through the town of Boron. Boron is named after the element boron and is the site of the world’s largest source of the boron compound boric acid. It a small, run-down town on the western edge of the Mojave desert. Rio Tinto runs an open pit mine nearby. We have taken a tour there in the past.
We settle into our rooms at the Holiday Inn Express in Barstow where I take a short nap before we meet to go out star gazing and trying to find a sighting of the Green Comet. The Green Comet is making an appearance in the night sky after being away for 50,000 years. There is no moon tonight which should help with our trying to see it. We travel up into the hills south of Barstow and look north but the lights of Barstow make it too hard to see much. We decide to try again in St. George where we may be able to find a darker spot. John and I have forgotten to bring along binoculars which doesn’t help.
We have dinner at the Chili’s across the parking lot from our hotel. We sit at the bar and watch the end of a football game and a little of the Australian Open. It is fun.