June 26, 2016
Tiny Lewis, who took great care of me and was an incredible friend when I was a young Mormon missionary in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, woke me up with a big hug and kiss. Wow! I hadn’t seen her in twenty-three years! She was the fun, spunky, gorgeous aerobics instructor who, in her mid-thirties, constantly had the missionaries over to her house for dinner, Disney movies (there were all we were allowed to watch), and parties. She gave us fun “Big Johnson” t-shirts from the kiosk where she worked at the mall. Her and her two kids, Christina and Jonathan, became some of my best friends in the mission field. It was Christina who offered to let us stay at her house near Boise on this trip. I’m so very glad she did.
While I was showering for the day, the smell of sausage filled the house, and I knew I was in for a tasty treat. When I descended the stairs to the kitchen, the girls were already down there. Christina had laid out myriad types of fruit on the table, all neatly cut up. The sausages were browning on the griddle, the french toast was perfectly cooked, and the eggs were in the frying pan. Christina was spoiling us, and it was nice.
Tiny had brought over from her house several photo albums from when I was a missionary. She showed me and the girls pictures of me, and recounted stories to the girls of me when I was barely older than they are now. We had some crazy times and lots of friends and love. Tiny told the girls that, of all the missionaries that came through, I was the one who baptized the most converts. I don’t know if that’s true, and I wasn’t really keeping count, but it was nice for the girls to hear stories of me from before they were born, and in a totally different life than I have now.
The conversation with Tiny and Christina and her husband Matt could have continued for many hours or days, but we needed to get to Medford, Oregon in time for dinner with my dad and Patsy, so we said our goodbyes and drove away. The drive through Oregon is not what I expected. I’ve driven south down the Oregon coast several times, so expected the rest of the state to be the same. Southern Oregon has very few trees. It’s arid and incredibly sparse. There were spans of a hundred miles where we literally saw almost no manmade objects besides the road and other vehicles, and we could see for many tens of miles in all directions. Eventually, the landscape became sparsely dotted with short trees. As we continued west, those trees became taller and more dense, until the desert gave way completely to thick forest with towering trees with tops barely visible. It was impressive and very interesting.
At one point along Route 20 we saw a sign that said the next gas was in 68 miles. We had a quarter of a tank, so I drove past without giving it much thought. An hour later the low fuel indicator illuminated on the dashboard. There was nothing in front of us except rolling hills and lots of road. I’ll admit I was getting a little nervous. Eventually, before we ran out of gas, we came to a tiny station on the side of the road with a single pump and a whole gang of bikers filling up. I waited my turn, and when I pulled up was greeted by the nicest old black woman, who offered to help with the gas. Before declining, I remembered that in Oregon it’s not legal to pump your own gas, so stood and chatted with her while she filled our tank. Skye spent the time in the little store, eventually coming out with an arrowhead she’d purchased for $2. With a full tank of gas and lots of peace of mind, we continued our journey.
We drove to the rim of Mount Mazama, whose caldera is filled with a pristine 2,000 feet deep lake. When we got to a small parking area in a vast snow field on the side of the mountain and looked over the edge, I gasped in complete wonder. The water is a deep blue and stretches to the cliffs of the volcano. It’s unlike anything I’d ever seen, and well worth the drive. The girls and I took pictures of each other and ourselves. I’m glad we took the long way to Medford so we could visit Crater Lake.
The drive from Crater Lake to Medford was breakthaking. the tall trees lined the roadway the entire way, blocking out most of the direct sunlight that was now coming from the west. There were few cars on the two-lane road the was carved through the mountain forests. I enjoyed the scenery, but anxious to see my dad and step-mother, Patsy.
I hadn’t seen Richard for several years and we’ve barely spoken to each other at all. Since Kirsten died, we’ve talked on the phone once and sent a few text messages. I was looking forward to our visit. He’d reserved us a room in the same hotel where they were staying, and we had planned to meet for dinner.
We got our room key at the hotel and drove to a nice Italian restaurant nearby. We conversed as if there had never been anything difficult between us. It was nice. We talked about his near-retirement and what are his plans and hobbies. I shared with them the adventures we’d thus had on our trip, and a little about Kirsten’s final weeks and days. After dinner we drove across the street to Baskin Robbins for some ice cream and continued conversation.
The spectacularly scenic drive through Oregon was bookended with visits with people I love and haven’t seen in a long time. The girls and I enjoyed singing in the truck and stopping along the way to take pictures. It was another perfect day, one I will not soon forget.