Wednesday, May 02, 2012

I Hate Funerals, Memorials and the Like

Early this morning, my family returned from one of those hated events.  We had a death in the family - my father-in-law died.  I do not know the official cause of death.  I would call it a result of complications due to leukemia.  He was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukemia about twelve years ago, but his health really began to fail at the end of last year.  My wife and daughter went out the the Los Angeles area for several weeks to be with him and to, at the time, hopefully, be with him while he recovered.  Alas, it was not to be - we lost him in the middle of April.

Since he loved to drive, we decided to drive out to his memorial service.  On the outbound leg, we started on US 190 and, just before Fort Stockton, Texas, merged into Interstate Highway 10.  The Texas roads were pretty good.  Driving I-10 through New Mexico and Arizona was pretty boring - the land is mostly desert and near-desert.  The highway, however, was great.  We knew when we hit the California boarder by the condition of the road - it got much worse.  Even with all the taxes the Californians pay, they cannot come up with the money to maintain their roads.

The gathering of the family, as can be expected, brought out the usual family issues. I must admit, the issues were not as divisive as they have been in the past. There was a lot more cooperation than is usual. All this was just for a memorial service. My father-in-law was cremated and there was no traditional viewings and funeral. I think it was better that way, although I missed the veteran's service he, as a US Air Force veteran, was entitled to. The service was held in the same church I met my wife in and we got married in almost twenty-nine years ago.

We left the day after the service; my wife had to get back to work this morning. Her boss would not give her any extra time off, above and beyond the bereavement leave.

Instead of driving back on I-10, we decided to do something different and try to decompress a little on the way home. We took I-10 as far east as Joshua Tree National Park, then we headed north, through the park, to I-40. Joshua Tree National Park is a strange place. It is located in the Mojave Desert and has many unique rock-forms and vegetation. Maybe I will post some pictures later.

Leaving the park toward the north took us through Twenty-Nine Palms and on the decommissioned US 66 for a while. US Route 66, aka "The Mother Road" was officially replaced by I-40. We stopped at Roy's Gas Station in Amboy, California, one of the historic sites on route. The only business alive in Amboy is Roy's; the rest is just a ghost town.

We pushed on into Arizona, stopping at Lake Havasu City, AZ, for the night. There, we drove across London Bridge and had breakfast in a cafe right next to the bridge. London Bridge once crossed the Thames River in London, England. It was disassembled, block by block, and reassembled in Lake Havasu City as part of a resort.

As we drove, I was saddened to see all of the abandoned and derelict shops, factories and other buildings along the route. On I-40, we passed what looked like had once been thriving small towns. Now, all we saw was empty buildings, some with faded "for sale" or "for lease" signs. The windows were empty and often broken. The roofs had caved in. When we got off I-40 and onto US highways, we passed through many more of these towns. Often, the only open business was the Post Office. There was not even an open gas station any more.

While on I-40, we stopped to visit a new drive-through zoo: Bearizona Wildlife Park. This is a relatively new zoo, opened in 2010, that specializes in showing the large mammals, especially black bears. They also have bison, white bison, wolves and big horn sheep. It is located east of Wilson, Arizona, just off of the frontage road - good old US 66. This year, they opened a walk-through area. Even at $20 per person, it is definitely worth a stop! Again, maybe I will post some pictures later.

After crossing into New Mexico, we had to start making up time. Two-thirds of the way across, we veered south to US 60 and on to US 84. US 84 runs straight into central Texas, crossing I-35 at Waco, Texas. I-40 goes too far north, running through Fort Worth and Dallas. We cut off long before Waco, heading south on US 183 through Goldwaith and linking up with the road we started on, US 190, in Lometa. By the time we got home, it was 1:30 in the morning and we still had animals to feed and care for.

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