Disclaimer: To the friends and family members living in California and Arizona that I wasn’t able to see, my apologies! Two weeks just isn’t enough time.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
It was time to start heading home, and as much as I enjoyed my travels, I felt ready to go back. Not that I was homesick or travel-weary, but it was time to start living my life again.
The night before, I had toyed with the idea of stopping off in Long Beach and to splash around in the ocean before leaving California. However, good sense prevailed and I decided to get an early start and to eat up some miles instead. There would be other opportunities to go beach-hopping, I hoped. Before departing Riverside, I remembered to get my car a much-need oil change (it had earned it). The morning and early afternoon went by uneventfully. Before long I was in Arizona and headed toward Phoenix. I did get a bit of a shock when at one point, I glanced out my window and saw not one, but two large dust devils twirling along side by side in desert not far from the highway. I was fascinated. They looked like miniature, half-hearted tornadoes as they harmlessly sucked at the ground and danced eastward along with my car.
Another thrilling event occurred while speeding along my way towards Phoenix: my little red car turned 100,000 (miles). It’s quite the milestone for any car owner.
I had a number of friends and family members who lived in the Phoenix area and I spent much of my drive trying to figure out who just who I would be able to see. Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to visit with everyone. I got in contact with my Uncle Brian, but he was out of town and wouldn’t be back until evening. My longtime friend Andrew was available to hang out. I thought about what where we could go when I had an idea. I checked online, and sure enough, they were at home. I thought, why not? I mentioned my idea to Andrew and he readily agreed. When I got into downtown Phoenix, I found myself a parking garage, this time being very attentive to my surroundings. The city around me was fairly quiet. It was also extremely hot. Although I have always found the southwestern U.S. a fascinating place to visit, I couldn’t imagine ever living there. I’m not a hot weather person, humidity or no humidity. And I was suffering mightily as I walked the several blocks to Chase Field where I purchased two tickets to see the Diamondbacks. Yes, I intended on going to yet another baseball game. It seemed fitting though, as Andrew and I grew up being big baseball fans. It was he and his family who took me to my first Cubs game. Chase Field would be a fitting place for our reunion.
However, before this happened, I had another reunion to attend. I headed out of Phoenix to meet another friend, Amy, for dinner in the Phoenix suburb of Goodyear. Unfortunately, my timing was rather bad. Amy was sick and had just gotten out of work from teaching kindergarten. She also had her spirited young nephew in tow, who had just concluded spending the week at her house. His mother arrived shortly after Amy and the four of us dined on Subway. The nephew turned out to be an amiable little chap who, as I learned, was also quite an advanced reader for his age (as a Youth Services Associate, my heart leapt with joy at this). With a fistful of Minecraft toys, he chattered away and sipped on his favorite drink which happened to being a mixture of all the fountain drinks combined. Eventually, the nephew and his mother departed and my friend and I were left to ourselves, but not for very long. She was clearly drained, and time was quickly getting on.
I headed back into Phoenix and met up with Andrew outside the ballpark. It had been years since we had hung out together and we had a great time catching up on each other’s lives as we watched the Diamondbacks lose to the Braves 3-1.
There was a brief bit of excitement in the second inning as the Braves’ first baseman chased a foul ball to the stands, attempted to catch it, then flipped head-first over a low fence and landed hard, tailbone first, on a row of empty seats. It looked very painful and the crowd collectively “Ooooo’d” as we watched the replay on the video board. It was a few tense minutes before the first baseman eventually got up, receiving a round of applause. Amazingly, he stayed in the game. It was proving to be quite a game too, as the Braves had a no-hitter going into the 7th inning. Andrew and I were hoping to be witnesses to history, but it was not to be. The Diamondbacks managed to break through at last. Oh well. It was still an enjoyable way to wrap up my trip out west.
It was around 10 pm when the game let out. Instead of staying the night in Phoenix, I decided to forge ahead a little while longer. Three hours later, after sleepily navigating windy roads in the pitch black, I made it to Heber, AZ (a speck of a town in the middle of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, not far from the New Mexico border). I pulled into the first hotel I came across. The outer doors of the lobby were locked for the night at this point, but undeterred, I laid on the buzzer until someone came to let me in.