We had decided to drive our 5th wheel trailer (named Aero) out to southern Utah for the Whitney reunion this summer, July 20, 21 and 22. Before we solidified our plans we were invited to Rebecca Whitney's wedding at the St. George Temple on July 14. So plans to attend both activities and also to drive down to Vista to see John's parents in between began to form. Accommodating everyone's schedule turned out to be a really difficult task. Jordan and Kelly did not want to drive all that way with Ethan, assuming he would not be a happy traveler for all those hours. Julie did not have enough vacation time left for the full two weeks. Jerica was scheduled to be on a Laurel high adventure till the 14th, so she would not be able to leave with those driving the distance on the 12th. So after considering many alternatives the final agenda was as follows:
The first group left as scheduled about 4:30 AM on July 12. John had planned the stops using gaspricewatch.com to find the best gas prices along the way. The prices weren't exactly as predicted, but did help us avoid paying excessive prices in some places. He took along 2 gallons of extra gas just in case, but we never needed it. The biggest fill-up along the way was 17.5 gallons in an 18.5 gallon tank (pretty close, though).
John and Jill drove that first day, with two riding in the pickup and two riding in the Aero. The ride in both was pretty rough at times, but especially in the Aero. It was also a bit noisy back there. Fortunately the weather cooperated and was pretty cool along the plains that can be pretty hot during the summer.
John had hoped we'd make it just beyond Denver that first day, hopefully finding a cool night for camping. We did make the 950 miles to Mountain Meadows Campground about 35 miles west of Denver. It was a very nice location nestled in the mountains, and got pretty cool at night. We got off the next morning about 7:30 AM on our way to St. George.
The roads got pretty steep and the air got pretty thin as we got up to the Eisenhower Tunnel at over 11,000 feet elevation, but the Tacoma made it pretty well. It required lots of shifting and keeping the pedal to the floor. Once in Utah we had some more steep hills. Jansen helped drive along that section as well, and we made it to St. George at about 7:00 PM. John had made reservations at the Temple View RV Campground, located just a few blocks from the temple, so we would be close by and be able to find it easily. It was a really nice campground with a nice pool, great showers (Jill said she had the best shower of her life there), and even a six-screen movie theatre. After some of us took a dip in the pool, many of Jill's sisters and their families came by to say hi. Somehow they figured out where we'd be and managed to find us. We were very close to the entrance, and they saw the Minnesota plates right off. The night was pretty hot, and we oscillated between using the AC and not, due to various tastes of the individuals (the AC is a bit noisy). Julie arrived about 2:00 AM and found us quite readily.
|Four of us went over to the temple Saturday morning, and left Jackie in the Aero alone. She could have gone and found some other cousins, but decided just to stay there. The sealing session was nice, and there were lots from both families present. After the sealing, the group went to one of the chapels on the west side of the bluff for a lunch and to visit. Later we went over to the temple and got this picture. Isn't the temple incredibly white and beautiful?|
|John had considered that it would be pretty hot downtown St. George, and the Temple View RV Campground was a bit spendy, so he made reservations at Snow Canyon State Park, about 11 miles to the north-west. It's a beautiful area in the sandstone hills, and it did cool off pretty nice at night. Here's a picture of our campsite with Julie's rental car next to it. We stayed for a few days to see the sights there and also because Jansen had three former missionary companions living in St. George he wanted to see. Only one was available, and that was Paul Walker. John took Jansen over to see him on Saturday afternoon, and then we attended Church with them in their ward and were invited over to dinner on Sunday evening. On Sunday we also went to the temple visitors' center and learned about the construction of the temple, the first one finished after Nauvoo.|
|In Snow Canyon it was reported that there were signs that said you couldn't walk off the established paths. But since it was only hearsay, Jansen took off soon after we arrived, despite the heat, and expolored the sandstone hills. He was excited to see a lizard up there. I guess he doesn't remember them from Arizona.|
On Monday we visited the St. George tabernacle and had a tour through the building. We also visited Brigham Young's St. George home and had a tour. It was very interesting to contemplate the work those early saints did with such limited resources.
Not knowing how the Tacoma would handle travelling through the heat of the desert during the day, we decided to get up early Tuesday morning to head out to Vista. We left about 2:30 AM and were on our way. By this time of the week we were almost alone in the campground, but just the night before a new neighbor came and parked close to us. They probably didn't appreciate our noise at that time of the morning as we left.
Since we traveled through the desert in the early morning, we found it quite cool. It was in the lower 60s through most of it. So it made for a quite pleasant trip. We arrived in Vista at about 9:00 AM. We also needed to get there early so that Julie could pick up Jordan, Kelly, Ethan and Jerica at the San Diego airport around noon. So everything worked out and we were all together in Vista.
|We had reservations at the Guajome County Park just a few miles to the north of John's parents. It was a nice campground, with room for the Aero, a tent and both vehicles. The only difficulty we had was the ants. They found their way up a tree and down a branch touching the Aero and into it the first night. We disrupted that thoroughfare by breaking off the touching branches, then they found their way up one of the jack stands the second day. One of the park workers suggested using Ajax on the ground to discourage them, and we also got some ant spray which we put on the outside pathway. The ant population steadily decreased, but we still had a few all the way back home a week later.|
|We had a good time with John's parents, and went out to the Souplantation for dinner on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday evening, John's sisters, Paula and Sandy, and their families, came up from San Diego and we had a nice buffet and visit.|
|Before the group dispersed we got a picture of the gang (less John on the camera and his parents still inside) outside the mobile home. From the left they are Julie, Ethan, Kelly, Jordan, Jackie, Jeff (Paula's husband), Jill, Paula, Jerica, Marty (Sandy's husband), Sandy and "Little" Marty.|
During the days in Vista we made a couple trips to San Diego and visited a pier in Ocean Beach, and visited Old Town where we had lunch at the Casa Guadajalara, and visited the Mormon Battalion visitors' center. We also had to stop at the Krispy Kreme Doughnut shop and have some of their hot doughnuts. The general consensus was that they were pretty good.
On Thursday morning John, Julie, Jordan, Kelly and Ethan drove down to San Diego to take Julie to the airport for her return trip. The remaining group wanted to get some lunch at a place that had been recommended to Kelly by a friend. We had a hard time finding it, and decided that even if it had been open we might not want to eat there. It looked like a hangout for the druggies. So we went back over to Old Town and had a nice Mexican meal at another of their fine Mexican restaurants.
|On Thursday we went to the beach in Oceanside, near the pier. The waves were pretty good sized and John, Jordan, Jansen and Kelly went out to catch rides on some. Ethan and the others stayed on the beach, and Ethan really had a good time with sand.|
|It looks like another of our little boys had some fun in the sand too. I wonder if Ethan recognized Jansen after disfiguring himself to this extent.|
Ethan was able to meet his greatgrandparents on this trip. He sometimes is a bit uneasy with strangers, but he was okay with them. His greatgrandparents were glad that he took to them without too much complaining.
We left for the reunion at Panguitch Lake on Friday morning, July 20, at about 7:30 AM. The Tacoma did pretty well making it up the Cajon Pass that leads up to the high desert. It did all right all through the desert and into Las Vegas in the afternoon, and didn't give us a lick of trouble. We were glad for that. Jordan, Kelly, Ethan and Jackie, riding in the rented car, got tired of going slow up the hills with us, so they took off ahead and got to the Panguitch Lake Campground ahead of us by about half an hour. By the time we arrived Friday evening, most of the family was already there, but they left us a nice area next to Beth and Wally in a pull-through site.
The reunion was great as usual, with about 84 in attendance over the three days. Jill's family was assigned lunch on Saturday, for which we planned to have Sloppy Joes and Tabouli (a cold Lebanese dish with lots of grains and herbs). We had bought all the ingredients in Vista. It turned out really good, but we had too much bread. It lasted for a week after we got home!
|Jerica and Sheraya were asked to MC the talent show on Saturday evening. Here are Jerica and Sheraya a little off stage planning the order of events.|
|Even Ethan was taking in all the talent.|
|Jansen was a hit with his songs "Hey Bruce", "Ten", "Chairs", "Snot Very Nice" and others.|
We had some great new talents from Matt and McKay Matthews. Matt recited Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" from memory, and McKay sang "If I Were a Rich Man" from Fiddler on the Roof, and did a great job. He had the part of Tevia in his school musical recently. We missed Clark and his Superman act, but we did get to hear him "Cryin' the Blues" as usual, and as usual everyone liked it a lot.
|Jansen was also a big hit with the little ones, and played with them for hours. One commented that Jansen has a lot of patience. Here's one of his benefactors, Marilyn Matthews, showing how happy she was.|
|Meals are always a big hit at the reunion. Here is the usual line forming up to get the goodies. Everything was really good and I think there was always plenty (but not enough to waste!).|
On Sunday a good number of us drove the mile over to the Panguitch Lake Branch for sacrament meeting. Like Jake said, it was the first time he went to church in a barn. Actually it was an A-frame, and didn't hold even half of those in attendance, so most sat outside. Those sitting in the shade were cold, and those sitting in the sun were hot. There was no happy medium. Maybe that's a shadow of things to come. It was a nice meeting, and they obviously were ready for a big attendance with speakers in the windows pointing outward.
We said good-bye to Jordan, Kelly and Ethan on Sunday evening as they headed off for St. George, then Las Vegas for their flight. Several others also left on Sunday night. By Monday morning there was only a skeleton crew left, and it was time for us to leave too. We sent Jackie off with Aunt Brenda, who volunteered to take her to the Las Vegas Airport. We gave her strict instructions and contingency plans so she would meet up with Jordan and Kelly. Apparently everything went well. We then took off in the Tacoma and Aero to return home. It sure is a lot less fun going back the other way. We had hoped to get to Nebraska by evening, but we got off a little too late and we ran into a pretty wild storm just east of Denver. The wind was blowing and the rain was pouring. Jill asked John why he was driving down the middle of the two lanes, and he said because it was safer there. The lightning was incredible. It would flash brighter than a cloudless summer noon, then leave you blinded for a few seconds. So John thought it was about time to find a place to rest about 9:00 PM. We went to a rest stop in Sterling, Colorado, which was still 80 miles from Nebraska. They had a nice setup for RVs, even with a dump station, but it was a little noisy with the trucks coming and going. John got up at 3:00 AM and they were on the road again. John drove, then Jansen drove, then Jill finished up and we got home at about 5:00 PM on July 24, enough time to get things cleaned up.
It was a great trip and all the intricate plans came off without a hitch (except the one in the pickup!). The only problem we had was that John lost the flame igniter and had to go to Home Depot in Vista to buy a new one. We didn't have any matches. Of course, a little while later he found the first one between the window and the screen just above the water heater of the Aero. So now we have a spare for when that happens again. It was great to see lots of our family members again. However, we don't think we'll be able to drive the 3400 miles pulling the Aero too many times a year.