It was really dark during the drive, but Don and I happily chatted along. We hit Abilene and we were both foaming at the mouth for some Starbucks. Unfortuately, there are only 2 Starbucks in Abilene, both of which were not off of the highway we were on. Not a big deal since SBUX was probably closed anyway. We ventured on. When we hit Sweetwater, there were all of these bright red lights glowing in the sky. It looked like a futuristic valley of radio towers. We speculated that they might be windmills, but we aren't really sure. It was pretty incredible to drive through such a black night with these tiny red lights floating all around. We hit Big Spring and I was immediately thinking about all of those bus trips I made in high school to all of the surrounding towns. I guess it really started in Abilene, but Big Spring seemed to really hit home. Then we passed through Midland/Odessa area. Again, I was reminded of all of the volleyball tournaments. Of course, it smelled like the Midland/Odessa area. To me, that's what money smells like, but to outsider unfamiliar with that pungent odor, they think it's just a mixture of sewage, fertilizer, with a bit of methane. Not pleasant. By Monahans, I was struggling. We stopped for gas and food at a Town and Country along the highway. I poorly attempted to make my own iced coffee, but when your coffee is stale it's just a recipe for disaster. The bathroom was clean, albeit frigid. Mari didn't enjoy laying on the changing table for her diaper change. We fed her and on the way out of town, we stopped by Whataburger for some breakfast taquitos. They were hands down the absolute worst taquitos ever! Thankfully, the guy in the window was friendly enough, so we weren't in a bad mood. Our bellies, on the otherhand, were angry. I lasted long enough to see Pecos and opted to have a short disco nap. By the time we reached Van Horn, Don had to stop to use the facilities. This time all of the kids stirred, but none of us really wanted to wake up. I fell in and out of sleep, fighting it as best as I could until we hit Ft. Hancock. I immeditely thought of my friends Jenna and Treva. I started to wake more and Don asked if I could drive. I did some random car calisthenics to get the blood pumping and to wake up for the last stretch. We started talking some more and laughing. Next thing I knew we were in El Paso. Local time: 6:30AM. Holy cow!
When we got there, Don and I both immediately wanted to crash. He slept for a few hours, had some breakfast and went back to sleep. I took about a two hour nap, ate some breakfast and ran to the store for some essentials for Mari. Poor baby was battling some serious congestion and had the beginnings of a nasty cough. El Paso is normally hot. We were lucky to experience some rain that day, so it wasn't as bad. But one of the favorite things to do while we're visiting is anxiously await the ice cream truck and enjoy some ice cream in the heat. We all sat on the porch enjoying our helado. We even bought an ice cream sandwich for Grandpa. While he couldn't go outside to eat it, he happily sat at the dining room table enjoying it while doing a word find.
During the mid-morning, I came out of my slumber to enjoy my cousin Donna's breakfast: eggs and sausage! Yum! Not too shabby of a breakfast for a 12 year old. She's been staying with my grandparents for the summer to help take care of them. What a trooper. After Mari ate, Grandpa had come to eat breakfast and she was able to meet him for the first time. She gave him a classic Mari smile and leaned in to give him a kiss. (She recently learned how to do that.) Here she is leaning in to say hello to her bisabuelo.
While there, she insisted on practicing her standing and pulling up. I like this picture because you can see her tiny leg muscles and you can get an idea of how big she is. That's a regular sized recliner. Yes, I know she's still pint-sized, but she's full of energy.
I can't tell you how happy I was that we made that journey to see my grandparents. It meant a lot to me that Mari was able to meet them. She probably won't remember this trip, but I did my best to capture it in pictures so someday she can look back on the pictures.
Then, the next day, we woke up early to head to Lubbock...