Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Home Sweet Home

We've left Red Wing and are home. My grandfather's condition has improved, his strength has returned, his wit as sharp as ever, but his prognosis isn't much better. He's stuck between a bleeding ulcer and a damaged heart, with treatment for either destined to aggrevite the other. In other words, if they treat him, it could kill him.

He has told the medical staff that he does not want to be revived, should they be faced with that decision. At 92 years old, I know he's thought a lot about death, told me stories about friends he's lost, but that must have been a difficult decision to make. Thankfully, he had the strength of will to make these decisions for himself and isn't asking his family to struggle with those questions further down the road.

I think I mentioned it before, but we drove to Minnesota, rather than fly. From Denver to my family's small town home of Red Wing, it's just a little over 900 miles, a trip that's too far for a toddler, but Chunk surprised me. He was great there and back, well behaved and agreeable, if a little nuts by “night-night time.”

There's a strange kind of peace that comes from driving long distances. I've read that there is a quasi-hypnosis that happens to people who stare at the road for too long, but what I'm talking about is more than that temporary state. When I was a kid, most of our family trips were driving trips, usually up to Minnesota, and so I know the trip very well. I can tell you stories about most of the rest stops along the way, point out the best Denny's for pie in Iowa, explain which tourist traps in Nebraska are worth seeing and which ones are okay to simply drive passed. Having made the trip countless times, as a boy and teen, it was strange to take that same trip again as a father. Strange, but natural in a way, like this wouldn't be the first or last time our little family braved the long highways of the midwest.

On the way home we drove through South Dakota and I saw Mount Rushmore for the first time. Having seen photos and the occasional scene from “North By Northwest,” I expected it to be sort of cheesy, but it was surprisingly neat and very tasteful. I can be a little cynical at times (I hope you were sitting down for that particular revelation), but it was a very moving monument and more than just a little awe-inspiring. Crazy Horse is slowly being carved into shape several miles away and should be even more impressive when it's finished.

Denver Mom and I decided that we'd plan a car trip every summer. We're planning on seeing Yellowstone, White Sands National Monument, visiting the Robert Henri museum in his home town in Nebraska, and maybe going back to our old favorite, Bandelier National Monument. Any other suggestions for places we can go?


Maria said...

I sort of grinned at the idea of "tourist traps" in Nebraska. :)

We have Boystown, Willa Cather and Johnny Carson's birthplaces...and the um..Cornhusker stadium on the UNL campus. That is about it. Not exactly a vacation paradise. People don't flock here in the summer. We generally flock away from the hideous humidity and high temps.

The Willa Cather site is beautiful and there is the prairie pioneer museum. But mountains and oceans aren't on the agenda. Just some kick-ass prairie grass. Our Henry Doorly Zoo here in Omaha is one of the best in the country, though.

If you drive through, come on by for supper. Liv will swing Chunk around by his armpits in the back yard and when it gets dark, they can go try and catch fireflies.

Papa Bradstein said...

You did stop by Devil's Tower, right? If not, watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind before your next road trip and stop there. Oh, and get some free water at Wall Drug while you're in the neighborhood. Little Big Horn is just up the way, where you can teach Chunk how to lose a battle even if you have the high ground (hint: try using all the hubris that you've got). OK, but that's probably too far out of the way. A stop in Lincoln to tour the capitol is fun, if only because you get to say "unicameral." OK, I'm a word geek, I admit it.

Sandy said...

I am glad you grandfather is doing a little better.

I agree with the road trip thing. We try to take a trip to see my family 800 miles away at least once a year. Yes, we drive the 13+ hours to get there. It is nice seeing the country side on the way down and back.

Lainey-Paney said...

Hello. Come to Dallas so Gage & Chunk can have a playdate!'s so terrible...but I think about Dallas---and what's the draw??? We've got the JFK Museum & grassy knoll....and we've got SouthFork Ranch (where they shot the show "Dallas"...and where they shot JR!)
Other than that...nada lotta.
If you live here there is a lot of stuff to do...but I don't think we have any great big huge tourist attractions other than those...

Kudos on the annual road trips though. I would want to go see random stupid stuff too---like the world's biggest Ball of Foil, or something like that.

Oh! Here's another suggestion: California Redwoods & Cliff Dwellings (New Mexico...or Arizona, I think).
Those are two things on my list.
Aaaaandddd---caves. Stalagtites & Stalagmites (spelling???) I've never been in a cave or seen those. So, I want to do that too.


croutonboy said...

Red Wing? No kidding! I used to go there a lot when I lived in Minneapolis (and had ex-wife ex-family there). Very pretty. But that's a looooooong drive. I don't think I could do it without drowning out the environment with some very loud music...something both wife and child would reject. You're a stronger man than me.

Sorry about your grandfather, though. If nothing else I hope his pain is minimal.

Denver Dad said...

Maria... There are, as a matter of fact, a number of tourist traps in Nebraska. Pioneer Village is a big one! There's also a ski resort off the highway, just past Cozad, that I'm going to write up in my book "The Twenty-Five Worst Ski Resorts In North America." :)

We're seriously considering coming back up that way later in the summer. My wife really wants to see the Henri museum, but it's a few hundred miles shy of your neck of the woods.

Papa Bradstein... We didn't do "Devil's Tower," because we were just too far south of it, and too tired of being in the car to make the added effort. We did hit Wall Drug, though. Wow! Color me unimpressed! :)

Sandy... It is nice to see some of the country while you travel, but it's exhausting. I think "jet lag" applies to the car, too. I'm only now starting to feel more like a normal person. Ugh!

Lainey-Paney... Hahah... Dallas sets and conspiracy theory museums, eh? Nice! The Redwoods are a good idea. Bandelier, which I mentioned, has a really neat walking tour of native dwellings. It's really, really cool and I can't recommend it enough. Caves are a neat idea, but it kind of creeps me out to be underground. It would be a neat outing for Chunk, especially as he gets older, though.

Croutonboy... Yep, Red Wing, home of... well... shoes. My entire extended family are there (I even have an uncle that works for Red Wing Shoes!). As you said, it is a beautiful town/area. Denver Mom periodically makes noises about us settling down there, but isn't exactly thrilled about the idea of wintering in Minnesota... especially right off the Mississippi. Still, it's a pretty town. Fun to visit, especially during more cheerful times.

Thank you everyone for the kind words and thoughts regarding my grandpa. I really appeciate it!

Dad Stuff said...

Were the eagles flying in Red Wing?

I agree about the hypno-driving. Especially on those long flat roads in SD. Next time check out Bear Country after Rushmore.

Patty said...

Keep up the good work.