We left the Grand Canyon and drove to Holbrook, Arizona. It was one of those days of catching up and getting stuff done. We landed in this sketchy little KOA right off the interstate, and after setting up camp, drove on to Petrified Forest.
I had visited Petrified Forest (and many of these other parks) when I was 12. I remember we drove through it for the most part. I don't have a lot of recollection of it.
Neither will my kids.
It was the strangest national park/monument we've ever been to, and we've been to over 25. It felt like it had been constructed in 1965 and then left to its own devices. It felt sort of abandoned. There were some signs that they were trying to revitalize their image, but for the most part, it felt like a prison for rocks. Which it is—it is illegal to gather anything in national parks, period, but this was the first one that had a slip of paper given to us at the entrance so we could spy on other visitors and report illegal activity.
Brooklyn got out at one point, said, “oh look, another raven,” and then looked me square in the eye. “I am so tired of the Colorado Plateau.”
She went back to the car.
It was desolate, but fascinating, the petrified wood just strewn about on the ground. London was highly enamored by the idea, and the next day we went to the gift shop so she could get a pair of petrified wood earrings (collected in other parts of Arizona, the signs all said—I mean, it was a gift shop IN the park after all).
We drove the next day, out of Arizona, through Albuquerque, and down to Alamogordo. It was a long drive and we lost an hour to the time change. We had lunch at a nice little Mexican place (oh so spicy), but sometime between lunch and arriving at our destination, I was overcome by a wave of homesickness.
I used to move, on average, every 2 years. And after about age 10 (before that, who cares?), this wave of homesickness would hit me about two weeks post-move. Usually we were at our next destination, either in a house or, worse, in a corporate apartment waiting on a house to close. Or to find one. And the temporary feeling of life, the leaving behind of what had been permanent-feeling, it was the same feeling I had that afternoon.
I'd been gone too long.
I talked myself down as we got to the campsite, at a state park near White Sands National Monument, a beautiful desert landscape chock full of birds and a sunset waiting to take my breath away.
But we were the only people there.
No joke: no ranger, no campground host, nobody. NO OTHER PEOPLE. THERE WAS NO ONE THERE.
I'm just going to sum it up: it pushed all my buttons. I couldn't sleep. I sat out and looked at the stars, the Milky Way, the satellites, the space station crossing my sky. Then I went to bed, making Bixby go on to sleep. The kids slept. He slept. I stared into the darkness. I texted a friend. I felt myself get sleepy and I felt myself fight it. I was terrified by simply being alone.
I slept between midnight and 2 in the morning, waking to every sound. I was awake then until almost 4. I thought, if I can make it to the twilight before dawn, I will feel ok. Bixby will wake and I can sleep until 8 or so and then we can head to White Sands.
I snoozed off and on until 5:30, when London woke with an earache.
Tylenol administered, I told Bixby I was going to sleep. The urgent care opened at 8.
He let me sleep until 7:50.