I don't know how I didn't post this last bit.
After the ear infection and white sands, which was hot, so very hot, we drove a short way to the town of Carlsbad, New Mexico, which was actually quite a bit north of Carlsbad Caverns but the closest KOA.
It was clean, well-kept, and quiet.
Stepping out of the car, I jacked up my knee and spent the rest of the evening, after stretching in the pool some, lying in bed wishing it felt better and figuring out what the heck to do about it.
So in the morning I strapped that brace back on and we went down to the park. Went on a cave tour that was really magnificent, and I say that as someone who lives in a state full of caves and has been to so many of them, wild caves and tourist caves alike. But I'm a bad cave tourist, always irritated by questions people ask and kids who touch things they shouldn't--the nice thing about national parks, though, is that it is chock full of cops.
I mean rangers.
I'm not the boss of any of it. I don't have to be teacher.
After seeing the cave, we went back to the campsite because there isn't much to do at Carlsbad besides the cave--but I wanted to come back in the evening for the bat flight, so we had scheduled to stay another night. It was good--I chatted on the phone, I did laundry, we almost ate dinner.
And then went to the bat flight.
We sat in a concrete amphitheater that stares down at the entrance of the cave. A ranger bantered about bats and told terrible jokes while we watched cave swallows ("the day shift") eat bugs and flit about. And then, all of a sudden, they appeared. It was a tornado of bats. They came up out of the cave, thousands of them, twisting around in a a cyclone and then heading out to feast on moths across the countryside. It was haunting and awesome. I was so glad we'd come to see it.
Lightning in the distance as darkness fell, and we headed out. We had made it past desert heat and flash flood warnings and losing an 11 year old at the Grand Canyon. I wasn't about to get struck by lightning at our last stop! I slept like a rock that night and woke up in the morning knowing I was headed home.
We had a hotel room in Oklahoma City because that last night, you just want to sleep and shower and zone out to a TV. That's exactly what we did, too, and in the morning drove THE LONGEST DAY EVER ACROSS OKLAHOMA AND MISSOURI IN THE HISTORY OF MY LIFE.
Not really. We got in and unpacked and took the trailer to the car wash and told the stories to neighbors and parents and I fell into my own bed for the first time in a million days.
And then a couple of days later, summer began. I started sleeping in and staying up late and it was hot as hades and my brother visited and the cat ran around and kids got bored and all was right in the world.